Somali region re-elects former warlord to fight al Shabaab

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KISMAYU, Somalia (Reuters) - A former Islamist warlord won re-election on Saturday as president of Somalia’s southern region of Jubbaland, a territory partly controlled by al Shabaab militants and at odds with the central government of the Horn of Africa country.

Ahmed Madobe was elected for four more years by members of the regional parliament, which has defied a government decision in June to disband it on the grounds it was unrepresentative and dominated by hand-picked members of Madobe’s clan.

Madobe, leader of the powerful Ras Kamboni militia, has fought against the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants who fully control one of Jubbaland’s three regions.

“God willing, I will eliminate al Shabaab from the remaining towns of the region,” he said.

Jubbaland includes the strategic port of Kismayu. Madobe and Barre Hirale, a clan elder, fought for years to control the city, which generates valuable revenues from taxes, charcoal exports and levies on arms and other illegal imports.

Hirale ruled Kismayu in the 1990s and into the 2000s until he was unseated by Madobe, who was at the time aligned to the Islamic Courts Union that ruled Somalia until 2006.

Al Shabaab then ruled the southern part of the country until 2011, when it was thrown out of the capital Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping troops.

The fate of Kismayu and Jubbaland is seen as a test of the central government’s skill in building a federal system and pacifying a nation fought over for more than two decades by warlords and Islamist rebels.

“We shall sit and discuss with the federal government and the clans and solve the issues through peaceful dialogue and reconciliation,” Madobe said.

Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Mark Trevelyan