•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

New Somalia government: Can it bring peace and stability?

Published Feb 11, 2009 3:30 PM

A new president was inaugurated in the Horn of Africa nation of Somalia on Jan. 31. Former Union of Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, 44, has pledged to open up negotiations with other organizations that remain isolated from the reformulated coalition.

Sheikh Sharif was elected at a parliamentary meeting in neighboring Djibouti after the collapse in late December of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) headed by Abdullahi Yusuf. The TFG had been propped up by U.S.-backed Ethiopian troops that invaded in December 2006, toppled the Union of Islamic Courts and occupied the country.

The Ethiopian government of Meles Zenawi had sent its army into Somalia, largely at the behest of the Bush administration, after the Union of Islamic Courts had established bases throughout large sections of the country. Fierce resistance to Ethiopia’s occupation over the last two years resulted in the formal withdrawal of Ethiopian forces in early January.

Sheikh Sharif took control of the new regime after United-Nations-brokered negotiations to create a coalition government by bringing in groups that had resisted the U.S./Ethiopian-backed TFG.

Sharif stated on Feb. 9 in Mogadishu that he would institute sharia law in Somalia. In a meeting with Islamic leaders and government security forces, the president encouraged peace and reconciliation among Somali organizations.

It was reported that “Said Dhere, the commander of the Somali military forces, and some caretaker government ministers attended the meeting. ‘We consider the role of every Somali citizen who can help bring peace to the nation,’ said President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.” (Shabelle.net, Feb. 9)

Who is Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed?

He attended Islamic school in Somalia and later traveled to Sudan and Libya during the 1990s, where he was trained in geography. He became a high school teacher in Mogadishu prior to involvement in the resistance movement to Ethiopian occupation.

A former leader of the Islamic Courts Union, he fled into exile after the intervention of Ethiopian troops and was demonized by the U.S. He chaired a wing of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), which grew out of the resistance to the U.S.-backed Ethiopian occupation.

Since the disintegration of its plans to control Somalia through Ethiopian troops, Washington now calls this grouping “moderate.” Another faction of ARS, headed by Hassan Dahir Aweys and based in Asmara, Eritrea, is considered more radical and has refused to join the new coalition government headed by Sheikh Sharif.

Sheik Sharif had surrendered to Kenyan military forces in early 2007 but was soon released. He returned initially to Somalia in November 2008 under the terms of a peace agreement reached in Djibouti in October.

Although he was involved in the resistance to the occupation, politically he is also considered a moderate in comparison to the Al-Shabab group, which is still fighting to bring about the removal of African Union peacekeeping forces (AMISOM).

The number of seats within the Somalia parliament has been doubled to 550 in order to take in 200 members from the Islamic Courts Union as well as 75 representatives from other opposition groups. In response to his election, Sheikh Sharif said that “My first priority is to bring peace to Somalia and I will serve the nation to the best of my ability.” (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 7)

The former speaker of the Somalia parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, spoke in favor of the ascendancy of Sheik Sharif, pointing out that he “is one of the most prominent figures in Somalia. Sheikh Sharif is the best choice to overcome the current crisis.” (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 7)

Nonetheless, the Al-Shabab resistance movement, which had been allied with the Islamic Courts Union, has rejected the Djibouti peace agreement and has continued to carry out armed actions against the government as well as the AMISOM forces. Al-Shabab has effectively taken control of large areas of the south and central regions of the country.

In a statement issued by Al-Shabab on Feb. 6, the resistance movement urged Somalis to intensify their struggle aimed at the removal of AU forces from the country. “We call on the African Union forces to pull out of our country or face resistance harsher than what they have ever experienced,” Sheikh Muktar Robow, a leading figure in Al-Shabab, told the French Press Agency (AFP).

He spoke with reporters in Baidoa, a city under Al-Shabab control, and condemned the Feb. 5 massacre of 18 civilians by AU soldiers in Mogadishu. “We are telling them that we don’t need their help if they are going to be massacring our people and I urge all holy fighters in the country to step up their struggle against them.”

Al-Shabab has several thousand fighters under arms and is estimated to outnumber the ineffective Somalia security forces and the 3,200-member AMISOM contingent composed of troops from Uganda and Burundi.

Under the terms of the October peace agreement, Ethiopian forces were required to withdraw from the country. However, on Feb. 6 there were reports that Ethiopian troops had re-entered a Somalia border town and set up checkpoints to take money away from local residents. Sheikh Abudurrahman Ibrahim Ma’ow, chair of the Council of Islamic Courts in Hiraan, said witnesses had verified the Ethiopian intervention. “We, the authorities in the region, will not accept it. If they do not leave within 24 hours we will fight with them.” (Al-Jazeera, Feb. 6)

U.S. responsibility

The intervention of the U.S. under the Bush administration is largely responsible for the political and economic crisis existing now in Somalia. Since the U.S.-backed intervention by Ethiopia in December 2006, the country has experienced one of the worst humanitarian crises on the African continent.

Even though the new Obama administration has given its approval to the new administration of Sheikh Sharif, the people of Somalia must be paid reparations. More than 16,000 people have died and an estimated 1 million have been dislocated since December 2006. The people of Somalia must be allowed to resolve their own internal affairs without the intervention of U.S. imperialism.

The former U.S.-backed regime collapsed because of the widespread resistance of the Somali masses. The people in Somalia have historically guarded their sovereignty and right to self-determination. This tradition has been strengthened through their experience of resisting U.S. interference over the last two years.

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire and has been following developments in Somalia for many years.