MOGADISHU, Somalia -- The Somali Parliament stripped the speaker position yesterday from a top lawmaker who was closely associated with the recently ousted Islamic movement, a move the European Union said was disappointing and could hurt reconciliation efforts in the restive country.
Diplomats said the fired speaker, Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, was capable of pulling together moderate elements in Somalia's Islamic movement. Yesterday also saw the government's disarmament efforts receive a boost with three major warlords handing over vehicles and men.
Deputy Speaker Osman Ilmi Boqore announced the move against Aden in proceedings broadcast live on HornAfrik Radio. Lawmakers cited his public criticism of a proposed African peacekeeping mission that Parliament had endorsed, and his meetings with Islamic movement leaders without authority from Parliament.
Boqore said only nine of the lawmakers present voted against the motion. Voting in favor were 183 lawmakers -- 44 more than required -- in the 275-member Parliament.
Aden's actions have been in "total violation of our transitional charter," lawmaker Mohamoud Begos said by phone from Baidoa, where Parliament is based.
Speaking from Rome, Aden said the lawmakers who voted against him were not acting freely.
"They have been ordered to vote me out by the president, Abdullahi Yusuf, who wants to rule Somalia through Ethiopian forces and through this Parliament. The president wants to crack down on all those who are against him," Aden said in an interview.
"I have been seeking reconciliation all over the world and this vote tries to destroy the very thing we have been looking for: reconciliation," he said.
Aden had made several freelance peace initiatives with Somalia's Islamic movement before government forces -- backed by Ethiopian troops -- ousted them in December from Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia.
In Belgium yesterday, European Union spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tadio expressed disappointment at the Somali Parliament's move against Aden, who held meetings with EU officials in Belgium earlier this week.
"We saw him as someone who could make a bridge with the moderate elements," Altafaj said. "We had encouraged him to go back to Mogadishu to carry out his job and bring together as many political players as possible."
Michael E. Ranneberger, the US ambassador to Kenya, told reporters in Nairobi before the vote that Aden was "the kind of person who could pull people together."
In the past year, Aden has differed with the president and Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi over the best location for the government and whether peacekeepers were needed.
According to Somalia's transitional charter, Parliament has to vote on all major government decisions before they can be implemented.
Gedi told Parliament yesterday he ruled out peace talks with the Islamic movement and hoped to see the first African peacekeepers in Somalia by month's end.
So far only Uganda has committed to contributing troops and few others have shown enthusiasm for a proposed 8,000-strong African mission to bolster the government's attempt to create law and order.
Yesterday three warlords who once held sway over parts of Mogadishu handed over at least 40 pickup truck s fitted with machine-guns to the government.
One warlord, Mohamed Qanyare Afrah, said 700 of his militiamen had agreed to be absorbed into government forces.
Another, Muse Sudi Yalahow, said his militiamen had also agreed to join government forces, though he declined to say how many.
The third warlord, Interior Minister Hussein Aided, said he had handed over pickups and his militiamen had joined government forces, not saying how many.