Monday, April 14, 2008
In our last editorial, Ushering Peace in Somalia, we wrote, "Ours is a country the two most important political actors – the TFG and the Alliance (the Asmara based opposition) - are not in the mood to negotiate peace.
We believe that statement requires revisiting, thanks to the industrious reconciliation efforts by the United Nations Special Representative for Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah. As of last week, both the Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance are separately talking with the UN envoy whose ultimate goal is to have the two sides talk to each other.
|Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdalla|
The UN Special Representative for Somalia
Two of the most important figures in the two camps are the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government, Nur Hassan Hussein "Nur Adde" and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Chairman of the Alliance of the Re-liberation of Somalia. Both have shown strong desire for political settlement and seem to have what it takes to usher peace in Somalia.
This follow-up editorial piece is intended to assess the prospect of these two political figures playing a catalyst role in the quest for peace and reconciliation in Somalia.
History abounds with ordinary people attaining extraordinary achievements in the face of great challenges. Consequently, titles such as leaders and heroes are bestowed on unique and successful citizens. History also records, as a footnote or on the margins, the fiascos of those who fail to show leadership when they were expected to rise to the occasion. Of course, external issues and environmental influences have always affected the turn of events in every human endeavor. However when the dust of weighty events settle, losers and leaders emerge because of the trembling or tenacity of individual actors. Vision, valor and foresight are what often distinguish the feeble from the farsighted.
In Somalia, since the time of the first President – Aden Abdulle Osman, finding men and women with national leadership credentials sadly become a dwindling rarity. The barren nature of Somalia has indeed puzzled many outside observers and emboldened the opponents of Somalia. Likewise, the inability of the nation to produce authentic leaders have also disappointed the Somali masses who yearn for forty years genuine leaders who could deliver the nation form the current perpetual-like yoke of mediocrity.
Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein
Hiiraan Online sees exceptional leadership qualities in the person of Nur Hassan Hussein ”Adde", the Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government. The "bright" Prime Minister (both the name Nur and the nickname Adde donate brightness), has shown during his short tenure as Prime Minister, an extraordinary interest to end the Somalia crises. The Prime Minister also moved with blistering speed to mitigate the mammoth public relations problems of the TFG. Prime Minister Nur "Adde" eloquently spoke about peace and reconciliation and exhibited a genuine desire to usher peace in Somalia. His statement that he is even willing to vacate his post if such a move would hasten peace in Somalia has earned the PM the respect of many Somalis.
Nur Hassan Hussein "Adde", PM of Transitional Federal Government
In addition, by releasing some imprisoned community leaders, Prime Minister Nur "Adde" also succeeded to reduce the suffocating political / security environment in Mogadishu. He also won over the business community in Bakaara market by allowing them to organizing their own private security and removing the Ethiopian soldiers and the TFG militias. The Prime Minister also secured the diplomatic backing of the international community and continued to maintain a cordial relationship with the big elephant in the Somalia tent - the Ethiopians - without appearing to be their hapless boodle. Prime Minister Nur Adde also succeeded (at least for now) to oversee the reconciliation agenda of the TFG, upstaging the hard line stance of the TFG President. He further reassured the worried and weary Somali public about the domineering Ethiopian security forces inside Somalia, by declaring that once the warring Somali parties make peace – Ethiopian troops will leave Somalia within 48 hours.
As a Prime Minster of a war-torn society, Nur Adde's work is indeed cut out for him. It is remarkable that he was able to stay away from the plethora of booby traps in the charged political landscape of Somalia. Moreover, Prime Minister Nur Adde preached peace and exhibited hope, and in the process: deepened the trust of his supporters, gained the respect of his detractors as well as the admiration of the Somali masses and the backing of the international community. What an achievements in six months!
Two new challenges await Premier Nur Adde. For one, the Ethiopian troops entered Somalia because of Ethiopia's strategic interests. How long the Ethiopians would standby and watch Prime Minister Nur Adde lay the foundation of Somalia-centric policies and institutional frameworks different from the Ethiopian designs is a question worth pondering on. The other challenge that could cut short Prime Minister Nur Adde's reconciliation agenda is whether he succeeds to convince the rest of the TFG leaders / institutions to accept and adopt his peace and reconciliation vision. It is not a secret that there is an open tension / differences within the TFG leaders and some media outlets are even reporting that there are plans hatched in Baidoa, the TFG Parliament seat, to stifle the peace overture of the Prime Minister.
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Hiiraan Online also sensed a glimmer of hope in 2006 with the ascendance of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in the leadership of the Islamic Courts Union. We named Sheikh Sharif then as the Person of the Year in 2006. We wrote an editorial, "Hiiraan Online recognizes Sh. Sharif Sh. Ahmed as the person of the year 2006, not only for his magnanimous personality, but for spearheading a fledgling, non-monolithic group, which, at times, overstepped its powers, and, at other times, underestimated its enemies. Whatever the cause of failure of the UIC maybe, Sh. Ahmed epitomized peace for six historic months in Somalia, where he captured the stage by every stretch of the imagination."
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Chairman of the Alliance of the Re-liberation of Somalia.
In Sheikh Sharif, we saw discernible leadership qualities. Under his leadership, the Islamic Courts and the people of Mogadishu routed the despised warlords and after sixteen years, re-commissioned both the airport and port of Mogadishu. The Islamic Courts cleaned the city, removed ubiquitous roadblocks, returned looted properties and presented the people of Mogadishu a precious six months of peace. Similarly, under Sheikh Sharif's able leadership, the Islamic Courts recovered within a year of a near-obliterating Ethiopian military assault. They also overcome orchestrated international diplomatic isolation. The Courts, under the guidance of Sheikh Sharif, further demonstrated political agility and adapted to the new reality in Somalia by joining forces with nationalist Members of Parliament and diaspora-based intellectuals. This reorganization resulted in the formation of the Alliance of the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), which Sheikh Sharif leads today.
Many dismissed the Alliance as a ragtag and irrelevant reactionary collection holed up in Eritrea. Again, the opposition put up a stiff diplomatic and military resistance, which frustrated Ethiopian strategy and rendered their TFG ally semi-comatose. The swift Alliance / opposition success on the ground made the planned diplomatic isolation untenable. As a direct result, we now know that the international community has changed their policy towards the opposition and currently the Alliance is considered as an indispensable stakeholder in present-day Somali politics.
Consequently, preparation for UN-led mediation efforts between the TFG and the Alliance is underway in earnest. Similarly, a new Alliance-included governance arrangement in Somalia and the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia are now considered desirable in fact, an inevitable reality.
In a press release dated on April 4, 2008, The UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah states that he, “see it as a good sign that the Somali parties are genuinely concerned about the situation in their country … They need to strengthen their ranks, consolidate national unity and understand that power sharing is the best way forward.”
In spite of the positive steps towards peace and the commanding role apt leaders such as Sheikh Sharif, we must also highlight the existence of thorny challenges that could derail the ongoing peace efforts. Two of these challenges will however form the final litmus test of Sheikh Sharif's leadership competency. For one, if the ongoing mediation efforts bore fruit, Sheikh Sharif and his colleagues will be required to work with / share power with the TFG leaders. It is not a secret that there is no love lost between the two sides and that each side is responsible the slaughter of thousands from the other side. How well the two sides leave behind their bloody past and merge into a new governing body will thus be the ultimate test for all, and particularly for Sheikh Sharif. Another more ominous challenge that awaits the good Sheikh is the Al-Shabaab factor. The Al-Shabaab fighters are not happy with his recent reconciliation efforts with the TFG. Taming these battle-hardened, self-righteous and hypersensitive Islamic fighters will be a tall order for anyone. Convincing them to curb their rhetoric and cooperate in a compromise governance order will be the final test of the leadership skills of Sheikh Sharif.
It is a blessing that Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed are in the helms of power in the most important political forces in Somalia. It is also a great coincidence that the current UN Special Representative for Somalia is no other than the able former Mauritanian foreign minister, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.
The past performances of Prime Minster Nur Adde and Sheikh Sharif make us believe that they are the best potential peacemakers in Somalia. We are also pleased to know that Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah is their top counterpart from the international community.
We hope the TFG leadership / institutions as well as the opposition groups see, seize and support this unique opportunity for peace and reconciliation in Somalia.