Somali President Yusuf was hospitalised in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday, amid conflicting reports on the seriousness of the 72-year-old’s condition.

war degdeg ah

Yusuf hospitalised

 Halkaan ka akhri

 NAIROBI (AFP) – Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed was hospitalised in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Tuesday, amid conflicting reports on the seriousness of the 72-year-old’s condition.“The Somali president has been admitted here. He is in serious condition,” said one hospital official, who declined to be identified.

A presidential aide confirmed that Yusuf was admitted at Nairobi Hospital but played down the seriousness of his condition, insisting he would be travelling abroad shortly.

“There is no serious threat to the president’s health,” the aide told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Mauro Saio, a doctor at Nairobi hospital, said Yusuf had been admitted with a chest infection. “We are just doing a few routine checks,” he told reporters.

Yusuf, 72, has suffered chronic health problems and survived a 2006 suicide car bomb attack that killed his brother and four of his bodyguards.

In recent weeks, Yusuf had seemed frail during some public appearances, had lost weight and suffered from heavy shaking.

He is believed to be one of the world’s longest-surviving liver transplantees and his ill health has been a source of concern in Somali political circles as well as among his foreign supporters.

Members of his entourage said he was still expected to travel to Europe, where he had been scheduled to go soon for a regular medical check-up.

Yusuf had also been due to hold talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Addis Ababa this week, but Somali sources in Ethiopia said he would not make it to the meeting in the Ethiopian capital.

The Somali ambassador there, Said Yusuf Nur, also denied reports that Yusuf’s health was failing. “Its nothing serious, he won’t stay there much. He’ll also speak to some officials during his stay,” he told AFP.

According to diplomatic sources, Yusuf’s attendance at the upcoming Europe-Africa summit has also been cancelled.

Yusuf was sworn in as the president of Somalia in October 2004 and had recently tightened his grip on the faltering transitional administration when Ali Mohammed Gedi resigned as prime minister.

Gedi is from the largest Somali clan, the Hawiye, and Yusuf from the second largest, the Darod.

In 1998, he became the first president of the self-declared state of Puntland in northern Somalia.

A career soldier who fought against former dictator Mohammed Siad Barre, Yusuf has the reputation of being a hard-nosed politician with a military mindset that critics argue has been an obstacle to national reconciliation.

He is a graduate of the former Soviet Union’s Frunze War College and received further military training in Italy. Yusuf also served as Somalia’s military attache to Moscow between 1965 and 1968.

The following year, another army officer, Mohammed Siad Barre, led an overthrow of the elected civilian government. Barre stayed in power until he too was ousted in 1991.

Yusuf refused Barre’s appeal for his help in the coup, a decision that resulted in his detention until 1975.

At that point, either through forgiveness or expedience, Barre released Yusuf and appointed him director of a government agency before giving him command of the southern front during a 1977-8 war with neighbouring Ethiopia.

In April 1978, he and other officers tried in vain to oust Barre. Dozens of people involved in the coup attempt were executed. Yusuf managed to flee to Kenya.

Later that year, he formed the first organised group to take up arms against Barre, the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, and remained its chairman for seven years.

Somalia’s next in charge is Parliament Speaker Aden Mohammed Nur, who is also currently in Nairobi, as is newly appointed Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein.

Yusuf’s health alert comes amid continued political turmoil in the western-backed transitional federal government, with four ministers resigning before they were even sworn in.

SomaliSwiss Wakiilka Nayrobi

SomaliSwiss@hotmail.com

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