Somalia's government continued its efforts to gain the support of
Islamist insurgent groups. At a ceremony in Somalia's capital on
Monday, leaders of one faction pledged their support for the country's
new president, but other factions remain opposed to the government.
taking over as Somalia's president at the end of January, Sheikh Sharif
Sheikh Ahmed, a former leader of Somalia's Islamist insurgency who
signed an agreement with the government last summer, has attempted to
bring on board the other Islamist factions who have been fighting the
government for the past two years.
On Monday, at a ceremony in
Mogadishu, the leaders of one faction, the Islamic Courts Union,
announced their support for Sheikh Sharif. One of the group's leaders,
Abdulkadir Ali Omar, called for forgiveness between different factions.
said that today there is a new era, a new coalition, and new work to
do. He said he and others welcome President Sheikh Sharif and his
colleagues and he said there is a golden opportunity. Omar said many
opportunities have been wasted but he said now there is a chance to
take advantage of the chance God has given to Somalia.
Islamic Courts Union has retained the name of the Islamist group that
briefly took control of Mogadishu in 2006, before being ousted by
Ethiopian troops supporting an internationally-backed transitional
government. Over the course of the ensuing insurgency, the Islamists
have broken into a number of factions. The Shabaab, a hardline group
that controls much of southern Somalia, and which is labeled a
terrorist organization by the United States, has vowed to resist Sheikh
Sharif's government, with one leader saying the new president has
abandoned the Islamist cause and sided with the United States.
other Islamist factions have formed a coalition, called the Islamic
Party, which has vowed to oppose Sheikh Sharif's government. But Sheik
Sharif, whose Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia has now joined
the government, has continued its calls for cooperation.
Monday's ceremony, Sheikh Sharif called for forgiveness between the
different sides. He called on the former enemies in the transitional
government and the insurgent groups to work together in the interest of
peace and stability.
He also voiced his commitment to
establishing some form of Sharia law in the country. There have been
some signs that Sheikh Sharif's efforts may be bearing fruit. There
have been reports in the Somali media that top Shabaab officials,
including spokesman Sheikh Muktar Robow, have held meetings with the
president in recent days. And on Tuesday, Somali media reported that
Islamic Party leaders had agreed to begin negotiations with the
government under the mediation of traditional leaders from the Hawiye
clan in Mogadishu.
There have also been reports of internal
divisions within the Shabaab. Since Ethiopian forces withdrew from the
country last month, insurgents have lost their main rallying point. The
Shabaab has struggled to exert its strength in Mogadishu, encountering
resistance from clan-based militias.
But for now, instability
persists. On Sunday, insurgents fired mortar rounds at the presidential
palace in Mogadishu, and attacked African Union peacekeepers, who have
been increasingly targeted since the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces. On
Monday in Nairobi, the AU's special representative for Somalia said
Uganda and Burundi would soon be sending additional troops to the
peacekeeping mission, which would bring the total to around 5,000,
still short of the 8,000 that have been approved.
who have long faced one of the most dangerous professional environments
in the world, have also been a growing target. On Saturday, the
director of a local radio station in central Somalia was hospitalized
after being stabbed. Last week, the director of one of the country's
most popular radio stations, Horn Afrik, was shot and killed in
On Tuesday, the National Union of Somali
Journalists said that Islamist insurgents, who control much of southern
Somalia, have been harassing journalists and restricting coverage of
Sheikh Sharif's transitional government.