Last 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 Somalia.”
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.”