Sheikh Sharif, a new hope for Somalia

Sheikh Sharif, a new hope for Somalia

Many Somalis both in Diaspora and inside the country have vehemently welcomed the election of Sheikh Sharif sheikh Ahmed as the new president of Somalia and hope he will unite the feuding parts of Somalia in an all-inclusive government capable of ending the protracted civil war in Somalia but I see it as an increasingly forlorn hope because of the colossal obstacles he should face. He would lead the third Somali government to be incepted outside the country for the last decade in which its predecessors failed to function and restore peace and stability.

The same factors triggered the demise of Abdullah Yusuf´s government still prevail, as Sheikh Sharif prepares to return home after his election, he will be catapulted into familiar problems like; Ethiopian intervention to Somalia, Islamic extremists vowing to confront his government and Piracy. Al-Shabab Al-Mujahidin a designated terrorist organization on American list -albeit it was one of the loosely related entities embodied by Islamic courts union led by Sheikh Sharif- is apposing his presidency, Al-Shabab seized large swathes in southern Somalia for the last few months and imposed their style of Islamic rule on Baidabo town, the seat of the Transitional Federal Government after Ethiopian troops departed Somalia. So, the upcoming government of Sheikh Sharif and the expanded parliament are left with out seat.

Sheikh Sharif hails from “Majmca Culumada Somaliyed”, Somali clergy assembly, a franchise of Muslim brotherhood movement set up by late Hassan Al-Bana in Egypt, Majamca culimada is one faction of the fractured Muslim brotherhood in Somalia, according to the canon and credo of Muslim brotherhood in Somalia similar to its parent movement is a peaceful not violent organization seeking to govern Somalia under Sharia law through community service and capacity building. After the collapse of the central government of Somalia, Somali Islamic movements spearheaded by Muslim brotherhood have been active in the social activities like building schools and providing food and accommodation for orphans with the support of oil rich Gulf countries, supports of Muslim brotherhood did not take arms to jockey for power. Jihadist Islamists contend that Muslim brotherhood like Majmaca culimada Somaliyeed and Islah (another faction of Muslim brotherhood) are not true practicing Islamic movements while others label them quasi-secular movements.

Sheikh Sharif and his fellow moderate Islamists, although they allied with hardliners like Al-shabab and other jihadist movements but their role has been confined to non military tasks. after Ethiopian troops rooted out Islamic courts union 2006, sheikh Sharif´s group seemed to have changed their mind and renounced violence if any, they opted to sit with the transitional Federal government, Sheikh Sharif´s efforts to secure Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia peacefully has been fruitful and he was rewarded by the expanded members of Somali parliament to elect him president. Sheikh Sharif is now facing myriad problems, Al-Shabab fighters are gaining more ground and declared war against Sheikh Sharif´s forthcoming government. Al-shabab´s militias are well armed and ready to die or blow them selves up-though their real military power is exaggerated, during Ethiopian presence in Somalia they waged rhetoric and nationalistic Islamic propaganda as a recruitment outcry, even young Somalis from America were reportedly joining Al-shabab.

Besides Al-shabab, other radical Islamists boycotted Sheikh Sharif´s government. Four armed Somali Islamist factions announced they knitted together their militias and formed a new unified faction dubbed “Islamic movement” led by Dr. Omar Iman, in a conference held in the remote area near the border between Kenya and Somalia. These armed groups Raskamboni camp, Caanoole, Al-Jabha Al-Islamiya and the alliance for re-libration of Somalia Asmara wing announced the unification of their leadership and militia and showed a firm determination to continue what they call jihad against Somali government and AMISOM peacekeepers but the central gravity is that endless jihad and counter jihad would only exacerbate the suffering of Somali people. Many observers predict that these factions will not get the support of Somalis after Ethiopia troops vacated Somalia, there are signs that resident of Mogadishu and its vicinity who fervently supported Islamist insurgents during Ethiopian occupation are resisting calls made by Jihadists to divert their war to AMISOM peacekeepers.

Former foes of Sheikh Sharif, Ethiopia and US also welcomed his election by calling him a moderate Islamist who could re-unite Somalia because of his moderate approach as well as his good relations with the Islamists but many analysts believe America and its regional ally Ethiopia are under delusion that moderate Islamists could be a bulwark for them as long as the threat of Al-Qaida linked organizations in Horn of Africa is concerned since they did not change their ill-advised policy towards Somalia.

Ethiopian troops hitherto infiltrate parts of Somalia, like Hiiran region adjacent to Ethiopian border where Ethiopian troops seized Kala-Beyr junction, this comes as their government overtly claimed it pulled all its troops from Somalia, Ethiopia is undermining sheikh Sharif´s presidency since sheikh Sharif´s marketing strategy that earned him wide public support has been the participation of Djibouti peace process that resulted the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia and if Ethiopian troops still kill innocent populace inside Somalia it will discredit sheikh Sharif and boast his detractors´ position like al-Shabab. In his inauguration speech, sheikh Sharif sent a reconciliatory message to the neighboring countries especially Ethiopia when he said “we want the folks of horn of Africa to live in peace and harmony”, in contrast to Somali leaders since the independence who publicly claim sovereignty over Somali inhabited regions of Ethiopia but his call got a lukewarm response from Ethiopia.

American allergy to any collaboration with Islamist even those of moderates might hamstring sheikh Sharif´s efforts to establish a functioning government in Somalia and subsequently embolden hardliners like Al-Shabab to undermine his government that might usher the dominance of Al-Shabab the political arena of Somalia and install Taliban style government in Somalia. I call upon the new American administration to support Sheikh Sharif financially and politically and pressure Melas zenawi to stop Ethiopian cross border incursions into Somalia.