Thursday, March 19, 2009

Somalia will Shine once Again

'That has a beginning has an end’. It is almost twenty years since the Somali civil war started. Since the election of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as President of the Transitional Government in neighboring Djibouti this year, a sigh of relief has been felt across the country even though a few extremist groups continue to escalate hostilities. For sure, the level of antagonism experienced in the preceding years cannot be compared to the current low level power struggles limited to a few restive areas exclusively in the central regions of the country. Consequently, what we have seen is that Sheikh Sharif seems to be more welcome in Mogadishu than his predecessor who finished his mandate secluded in an area the size of the Vatican and surrounded by Ethiopian Army artillery until his very last day.

Ironically, the youthful Sheikh got strong backing from members of the dissolved parliament during the election process held in Djibouti giving him resounding victory over rival candidates nominated by the previous administration. To this day, concerned nationals living inside and outside of Somalia continue to celebrate the moderate leader’s election as head of state. Needless to say, there are many conflicting ideas as to why today's Somalia seems far much safer than it was previously. For some, the current relative peace may be attributed to the withdrawal of the much-despised Ethiopian occupation forces while others hypothesize the partial cessation of hostilities to have been ushered in extenuatingly after the technical defeat and exit of the former President, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who, as they claim, masterminded the collapse of the military government, pioneered Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia, instigated the debilitating Horn of Africa piracy that has attracted international attention, and subsequently ignited internecine wars intended to create massive influx of refugees and internally displaced persons. Conversely, some are of the believe that former President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed’s political conviction and ambition revolved around his desire to destabilize or denervate or neutralize any present or future danger to his leadership and to that of the Darod clan from any feasible Hawiye armed opposition movements. Whichever view may be correct, Somalia’s current political solution seems to be gaining ground as Sheikh Sharif embarks on a philosophy based on political inclusivity, religious consideration, tribal deliberation, and the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission for the sake of accomplishing an everlasting peace for the devastated nation.

However, the new administration has received tough opposition from Al-shabab-the armed Islamist extremist group fighting to impose Islamic Sharia in the war-ravaged nation. Leaders of Al-shabab have categorically rejected any attempts aimed at enticing them to join the newly formed administration headed by Sheikh Sharif-the man who once shared the religious beliefs they currently exemplify. It is no secret Sheikh Sharif attached special importance to the theocratic beliefs Al-shabab is attempting to enforce at this difficult moment despite present and imminent danger from forces from within and outside of Somalia. Together with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a man who is reportedly in the U.S. terror list, the duo pacified the entire south of the country after courageously spearheading the defeat of the dreaded warlords in 2006 with support from the amalgamation of eleven courts that came to be known as the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC). Thus, the impecunious Sheikh’s defeat of the avaricious West-funded warlords elevated his status quo, an observable fact that befuddled his followers and foes alike and begrudgingly altered the perception of the international community. Finally, the UIC disbanded after neighboring Ethiopia, in response to a call from the weak Somali government of that time, unleashed a contingent of poorly-trained but well-armed force that left behind tremendous destruction despite losing the war to factions of Somali youth trained in guerrilla warfare.

Recently, Somalia’s bloated otiose parliament, without much opposition, unanimously proclaimed the implementation of Sharia law for Somalia. Despite the approval of Islamic Sharia for the nation, leaders of Al-Shabab quickly refused to recognize the new government because, as they claim, it is a government having secularist leanings and commanded by a man who renounced the Islamic faith and thus chose to become a ‘disbeliever’.

Ideally, such fallacious accusations have been a common blueprint for all kinds of forces jostling for power regardless of political affiliation or worldly location. To add insult to injury, Osama bin Laden, the most-wanted man in the U.S who has a $25 million bounty to his head, is reported to have released a recorded message urging Somali Mujahedeen to overthrow Somalia’s newly-elected President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The involvement of Al-shabab and Al-Qaeda in Somalia will, without an iota of doubt, advance the spread of extremist ideologies among the youth affected by the current economic meltdown afflicting the entire world.

Though many international media houses have exhaustively written much about the achievements of the unrecognized breakaway republic of Somaliland, the region's inability to grapple with the threat of suicide bombers, election irregularities and political schisms confounded with tribal hegemony, and the unresolved border conflict with the autonomous region of Puntland could be the ultimate undermining factor in its foreseeable future. Currently, Puntland is unable to come to grips with the recurring abduction of foreigners; it has become a victim of maritime piracy that has brought together the navies of the world’s most powerful nations creating an oceanic epicenter that willfully deplete Somalia’s fishing lifeline, undermines the territorial integrity of the Somali nation leaving behind petrifying noxious wastes to be inherited by a war-wary Somali nation long after the dust settles.

In conclusion, it is my sincere belief Somalia will come out of the current quagmire regardless of how long the current conflict will take. Also, there is hope in the leadership of the newly-elected President as he is already displaying astute leadership, perseverance, love for his people and his nation, and that he is ideologically moderate in all his political and religious undertakings. To cut a whole history short, Sheikh Sharif has emerged the most admired of Somali leaders since the collapse of the military junta in 1991.

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