BAIDOA, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s prime minister on Friday named the bulk of his new cabinet to replace one that fell apart last month over clan bickering, stalling hopes of getting the interim government moving amid an insurgency.

President Abdullahi Yusuf, who approved the appointments, was in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, undergoing a medical check-up a month after suffering a chest illness that sparked a health scare.

Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein appointed 15 ministers to fill an expected 18-member cabinet that is supposed to draw half its roster from outside the parliament, in a move western diplomats pushed in hopes of bringing in more technocrats.

“I’ve appointed 15 ministers and the rest of the ministers will be appointed soon. The new ministers will be sworn in tomorrow,” Hussein said in Baidoa, where Somalia’s parliament sits.

The list of ministers was not immediately available and Hussein did not say when the last three members would be named.

In December, the career Somali public servant dissolved a bigger cabinet after five ministers or deputies quit, saying their clans had been slighted in the appointments.

It dashed Hussein’s plans to move forward after his own appointment, which followed the resignation of Ali Mohamed Gedi after a protracted political battle with Yusuf.

Aides to Yusuf blamed the stress of that tussle for the chest complaint, with some saying he was near death after he was flown last month to neighbouring Kenya for treatment. He laughed off the reports.

Yusuf, 73, is a long-surviving liver transplant patient and has for years gone abroad for specialised treatment.

“The president was flown to Addis Ababa for medical reasons. He was well-dressed and he got on the plane by himself. He was not very ill,” a senior Somalia government official, who declined to be named, said.

The official said Yusuf left on Thursday, and would be flown to Nairobi “if his condition gets serious.”

Besides the political infighting, Yusuf’s administration faces a persistent insurgency in Mogadishu that has lasted since Somali soldiers with Ethiopian military backing ejected militant Islamists from the seaside capital a year ago.

The fighting has killed 6,500 civilians in Mogadishu, according to a local human rights group.

By Ahmed Mohamed

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