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,
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
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
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.
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
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)
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
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.
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.
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