World News

Somalia's first president dead at 99

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The first post-independence African leader to peacefully hand over power, Somalia’s first President Adan Abdulle Osman, has died aged 99, the interim Somali government said on Saturday.

Osman, Somalia’s only effective democratically elected leader, died in a hospital in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Friday.

“He played a crucial role in both domestic and foreign politics. He democratically led the country in a just way,” government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon said.

A nationalist politician during the colonial era, Osman was elected president in 1960, after the former Italian colony of Somalia and British Somaliland merged to form the modern state.

He stepped down after his defeat at polls in 1967, becoming the first African leader in the post-colonial era to do so and the last in any effective Somali government since then.

Two years later, dictator Mohamed Siad Barre seized power and ruled until 1991, when warlords toppled him and ushered in anarchy that the current interim government -- the 14th attempt at national rule since then -- is trying to end.

Somalia’s cabinet voted on Saturday to rename the Mogadishu international airport the Adan Abdulle Osman International Airport of Mogadishu, Gobdon said.

The country will also observe a 21-day mourning period while the government plans a state funeral for him, he said.

Osman is survived by eight children.