Medeshi Feb 14, 2009
Somalia's Sharif On Stability Track
CAIRO — Picking up a new prime minister and negotiating a ceasefire with rival groups, Somali president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is on track to restore stability to the violence-wracked Horn of African state.
"This is a president who has hit the ground running," Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at International Crisis Group, told the Los Angles Times on Saturday, February 14.
Less than two weeks in office, Sheikh Sharif chose Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the son of Somalia's last democratically-elected president, as his prime minister.
"I am more optimistic about the future of Somalia than I have been in a number of years," professor David Shinn, an Africa expert at George Washington University, told Reuters.
"I think this selection increases the possibility that the Sheikh Sharif government will be able to pull Somalia out of its downward spiral and eventually even create an administration that is broadly accepted by Somalis."
The Somali parliament on Saturday endorsed Sharmarke's appointment.
"I will form a government of national unity that will give top priority to peace and security," Sharmarke told parliament after his endorsement.
"The nation and the people are waiting for us."
Somalia has been without effective government since the ouster of former president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
More than 14 attempts to restore a functional government have since failed.
Sheikh Sharif, who is the leader of the Islamic Courts Union, which ruled Somalia for six months before the 2006 Ethiopian invasion, also started negotiating a ceasefire with rival Islamic groups.
According to the Times, the Somali president is holding preliminary talks, through intermediaries, with the leader of Eritrea-based opposition, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
He is also negotiating with Mukhtar Robow, the leader of Shebab group, a splitter of the Islamic Courts Union.
Shebab, which is designated as a terror group by Washington, has rejected Ahmed's election as Somalia's president, describing his government as an illegitimate "puppet" administration put together by foreign powers.
"(His) appointment has thrown Shabab into disarray," analyst Abdi told the Times.
"It has undercut the argument that the only way Islamists can come to power in Somalia is through military means."
Abdirahman Issa, a Mogadishu resident, is confused why armed groups are still fighting.
"They have been fighting for Islamic law, and now it will be implemented," he said.
Hopes for peace and stability are now prevailing across the Horn of African nation.
"People like him because he's not seen as a clansman, or a warlord or an extremist," said Ali Said Omar Ibrahim, head of the Center for Peace and Democracy, a conflict resolution group.
"So far there is a lot of hope and optimism toward this new government."