Somalia: from terrorist to savior of the nation

Sheikh Ahmed, the leader of the U.S.-fought Union of Islamic Courts, became Somalia’s new president – the new U.S. administration congratulates

Somalia has a new president: Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who was ousted two years ago as leader of the "Union of Islamic Courts" (ICU) two years ago. However, it does not look like peace. Militant Islamists, who control large parts of the country, want to continue fighting and Ethiopian troops are at the border.

After the election of Sheikh Ahmed as president, it was believed that the country in the Horn of Africa could finally come to peace. The Somali parliament had chosen the former geography teacher from Mogadishu as an integration figure who would finally persuade the different Somali factions to make peace. "In Somalia today, everyone thinks he or she is right and therefore refuses any dialogue. We need to put an end to this culture, sit down together, talk to each other and find solutions to our problems."

It will not be that simple. Since 1991, after the fall of the dictator Mohamed Said Barre in 1991, the country has been a disaster and a pawn in international politics for 16 years. Somalia was ruled by "Warlords" Somalia was dominated by militias that controlled different areas, often with minor and unpredictable militiamen "Road duty" cashed. A country where the law of the strongest applied, a horror for the civilian population.

It was not until the "Union of Islamic Courts" (ICU) took control of the capital Mogadishu in June 2006, chaos and murderous despotism ended. Stable conditions now appeared to be developing in Somalia. "What is relatively refreshing about this group", said Abdi Samatar, the Somali-born professor at the University of Minnesota, "that they had no interest in becoming a government. They only want to create conditions for the people to determine what they want."

Sheich Sharif Ahmed was the leader of the ICU, which made decisions according to Sharia, the Islamic legal code. After years of lawlessness, the people were grateful for a piece of legal security and, above all, peace.

Only the United States under the old President George W. An Islamic Somalia was a thorn in Bush’s side. People feared a second Taliban regime like the one in Afghanistan. In the fight against the Islamists one had even "Warlords" who years before had been enemies. Help was requested from Ethiopia, a long-time ally that had received $200 million in military aid since 2002. In December 2006, the Ethiopian invasion begins and only two months later Somalia is under control, the ICU expelled, its leader Sheik Sharif Ahmed in exile in Kenya. "We have a close working relationship", said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Joe Carpenter. This would include the exchange of secret information, weapons assistance and military training. About 200 CIA and FBI officials camped at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

Despite the "Blitzkrieg success" failed George W. Bush failed with his Somalia mission, as did his father, who had ordered thousands of U.S. troops to the Horn of Africa in 1992.

In 2007, radical splinter groups of the ICU, including al-Shabab (youth), began a guerrilla war against the Ethiopian invaders and gained more and more support (KfW and the debt from the imperial era). The situation seemed to be getting out of control and the U.S. decided to start a peace process under the leadership of the UN. In August 2008, a peace agreement was signed by then-President Abdullahi Yusuf and ICU chief Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. Something that was considered unimaginable. At the same time, a new umbrella organization, the "Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia" (ARS), in which the ICU became one of several members.

Radical Islamists want to fight on

Under the agreement, Ethiopia withdrew at the end of January 2009, to be replaced by African Union (AU) peacekeepers. At the same time, the Somali parliament was increased by 200 seats, which representatives of the ARS received, making the election of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed as president possible. Of all people, the man who was expelled as the leader of the ICU in December 2006 at the request of the USA. Somewhat surprisingly, the latter suddenly praised the once-hated enemy: "We believe that the U.S. position on Somalia has become positive and honest." Apparently there has been collusion with the new U.S. administration of President Barak Obama, which officially congratulated Sheikh Ahmed on his election victory.

One of many "Playing tree-changing games" in Somalia’s civil war history, for which politicians usually do not bear the consequences. This time it cost about 16.000 people dead, 30.000 were wounded and about 1 million are refugees .

In 2006, Sheikh Ahmed was a bloodthirsty terrorist; in 2009, he is the savior of the nation and democracy. How long it will last, however, depends on whether it can pacify the militant Islamists, such as al-Shabab. They were part of the ICU and consider their former leader a traitor. Sheikh Ahmed is believed to have made too many concessions to the U.S., including arances that there will not be a Somali state based on Sharia law.

Al-Shabab wants to continue fighting against the new government, as well as AU peacekeepers seen as new occupiers. The AU is said to have blindly killed civilians several times after attacks by Islamists. "We don’t need them if they massacre our people", said Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, an al-Shabab leader. "I call on all holy warriors in the country to intensify their fight against them."

Not to forget the Athiopian troops who keep invading Somali territory, complicating the situation even more.

The new president surprisingly flew from exile in Djibouti to Mogadishu on Saturday. He will hold initial talks with clan elders, politicians and Islamic resistance groups. Certainly a risk, since Al-Shabab and other Islamist militias hostile to him control large parts of Somalia and the capital Unthinkable for the time being would be a trip to the city of Baidoa, where the presidential palace stands and the actual seat of parliament is located.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed will soon have to convince the radical Islamists to make peace and to continue fighting only in the parliament. And then there are the pirates on the Somali coast, who need to keep their hands off the international shipping and the millions of dollars in expropriation funds. If all this does not work out in the best interest of the USA, it could easily happen that the White House once again thinks about a change of government in Somalia.