week Somalia elected its new president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. As a moderate, he
faces a daunting task of bringing change to his country that has not had a
central government for eighteen years and has resisted powerful forces and
brought down towering figures.
Opposition to his
election gained momentum when four Islamist factions announced plans to merge
and declare war against the new government that he is yet to form.
Paula Roque, a
researcher for the Africa Security Programme based in South Africa told VOA’s
Akwei Thompson Sheikh Sharif is facing several obstacles.
“First of all the expanded
parliament of 550 members will now have to be based in Djibouti since Baidoa
was taken by al Shabab. Also, there has been an escalation in violence around
Mogadischu, in fact, the greatest obstacle and, perhaps also the greatest
solution to the crisis is going to be the creation of an inclusive and broadly
accepted government…,” the research analyst said.
Ms.Roque did not see
the threat by four Islamist factions including al Shabab to merge into one
group to fight the Somali government as a negative for Sheikh Sharif.
“Well…he wants to
bring the Islamist into an inclusive arrangement for peace and stability so his
message was very much conciliatory, which is a very positive move…,” she said. However,
Roque said Somalis do not have the disposition for radical Islam and that al
Shabab may be losing its appeal.
She contends that by
its actions taken in Kismayo and throughout south-central Somalia “including
the desecration of the toombs of clerics, which in fact propelled the uprise of
the new movement of Suna, Shabab may be losing its appeal in south-central
Moreover, Roque said
it might be easier for the new president to deal with a group merged from four factions
than to negotiate with with them individually.
“”And now with the
new formation of a group, perhaps it could be easier to negotiate with this one
group instead of having to negotiate with several factions,” she said.
On the issue of escalated
violence in Mogadischu, Roque thinks an independent investigations of the
violations of Geneva Convention are needed. She also found it “incredibly
unhelpful that the top UN official to Somalia has dismissed the recent incident
in which Ugandan troops were accused of killing civilians, as propaganda.”