Somalia’s president was hospitalized in the capital of neighboring Kenya on Tuesday during a time of turmoil in his war-wracked homeland, and he was in stable condition, officials said.
Abdullahi Yusuf, 73, has had chronic health problems for years, including a liver transplant in 1996. Last year, he survived a suicide car bombing that killed his brother and several other people.
“He is suffering from a severe cold but he is stable,” Ali Mohamed Sheik, a protocol officer for the Somali Embassy in Kenya, told The Associated Press.
He was flown to Nairobi early Tuesday and was able to walk from the plane to a waiting car, Sheik said.
Dr. Mauro Saio, a specialist at Nairobi Hospital, said Yusuf had been coughing and wanted a checkup in Kenya because there are better facilities there than in Somalia. He said Yusuf would go to London for a “routine checkup” soon.
His departure from Somalia came a day after four Cabinet ministers resigned less than 24 hours after they were appointed. The ministers said their clan was not adequately represented in the new government of Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, who took office last month pledging to work for reconciliation.
In addition, the U.N. World Food Program said the Somali government ordered all airports and seaports in the Lower Shabelle region closed to the United Nations and international aid groups. That stranded more than 3,000 tons of WFP food aid at Merka, about 60 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.
Humanitarian workers have long complained that the government has held up aid to needy Somalis by demanding to inspect shipments or requiring exorbitant fees at checkpoints.
The government, with help from neighboring Ethiopia, has been battling a ferocious Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of people this year. The United Nations says Somalia is facing Africa’s biggest humanitarian crisis.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since warlords overthrew a dictator in 1991, then turned on one another. Yusuf’s government was formed in 2004 with the support of the U.N., but has struggled to assert any real control.