Friday, February 13, 2009

Somali News Bulletin: Former President's Son Named Prime Minister in New Government

Friday, Feb. 13, 2009

Ex-Somali president's son to be new prime minister

The Associated Press

DJIBOUTI The U.N. says Somalia's president has chosen the son of a former Somali leader to be prime minister.

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke is expected to be formally appointed Saturday. Sharmarke's father was a popular leader who was assassinated in 1969.

President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed made the announcement Friday in Djibouti.

Ahmed was chairman of the Islamic Courts Union that ran Mogadishu for six months in 2006 before Ethiopian soldiers drove them from power. His election raises hopes that he will bring many of Somalia's Islamic factions into a more inclusive government.

Somalia's Western-backed government wields little control. An Islamic insurgent group called al-Shabab, which says it doesn't recognize the government, has taken over most of Somalia.

Somali former president's son named PM

Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:09pm GMT
By Abdiaziz Hassan

DJIBOUTI, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Somalia's new president chose Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the foreign-based son of a murdered former leader, to be prime minister on Friday in a unity government intended to end civil conflict.

Sharmarke's nomination -- designed to shore up both diaspora and national support for the administration that is the 15th attempt to set up government in Somalia since 1991 -- drew wide approval among many Somalis but condemnation by local rebels.

"We welcome him," said Sheikh Abdiqadir Ali, a clan elder in in Puntland region where Sharmarke is from. "He was not involved in Somali politics and we are sure he will bring peace."

But Sheikh Hassan Yucqub, a spokesman for the al Shabaab group which is fighting Ahmed's government, mocked the naming: "An unlawful camel never gives birth to lawful ones."

Underlining the difficulty of the task awaiting Sharmarke and newly-elected President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, an al Qaeda leader urged jihad against the Western-backed, moderate Islamic government.

"Aim your arrows towards them ... direct your battles against them and intensify your campaign," Abu Yahya al-Libi said in a video released on Islamist web sites on Friday.

Washington says al Shabaab is al Qaeda's proxy in Somalia, and the group is known to have foreign fighters in its ranks.

Ahmed formally nominated Sharmarke at a ceremony in Djibouti, where Somali politicians are meeting.

"The parliament is expected to endorse him tomorrow," said a statement from the United Nations, which is brokering the talks.

Educated in the United States, Sharmarke has held various U.N. posts including as a political adviser on the Darfur conflict. He is the son of Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, an elected president shot dead in 1969 before a military coup.

Though his family base is Virginia in the United States, he has both Canadian and Somali citizenship, his aides said.

By choosing a diaspora figure, Ahmed will hope to win backing and involvement in his government from the several million Somalis abroad, many in Europe and the United States.

"More than the diaspora aspect though, Sharmarke is a figurehead who can bridge the gap between the Islamists in government and the international community, given his ties to the U.N. and profile abroad," one Somali analyst said.


Sharmarke is a member of Somalia's Darod ethnic group, whereas Ahmed, a former geography teacher and moderate Islamist who led a sharia courts movement in 2006, is Hawiye.

"Sharif is playing another Machiavellian card by keeping his friends close but his enemies closer, as a withdrawn Darod clan could use that space and time to mobilise to threaten the new government," said Mark Schroeder, Africa analyst at global intelligence company Stratfor.

"It also provides Western interests -- particularly the U.S. -- a point of access into the new government."

One of the losing presidential candidates, Ali Abdi Aware, described Sharmarke as a listener and potential unifier.

"I believe he will change a lot on the ground," he said.

The major challenge for both president and prime minister will be to face the threat of armed Islamist insurgents led by al Shabaab, which is on Washington's terrorism list.

It says Ahmed's government is an illegitimate "puppet" administration put together by foreign powers. Although Ahmed is a moderate Islamist who used to lead a sharia courts movement in Somalia, al Shabaab denounces him as anti-Islamic.

Around Somalia, much reaction was cautiously positive.

Sheikh Abdirahim Isse Adow, spokesman for the moderate Islamic Courts movement, said the new prime minister was an "honest" man who should bring "positive changes."

"We hope President Sharif and his new prime minister will not argue like the former government leaders. May Allah make them leaders liked by all," he added.

Some Somalis remembered Sharmarke's father with affection.

"We hope the new prime minister will be patriotic and will make Somalia peaceful. He is the son of our beloved late President Sharmakre who was just killed because of being honest," said Botan Hashi, a clan elder in Gurael town.

"Welcome - like father, like son." (Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Nairobi; Abdi Guled, Sahra Abdi, Abdi Shekih and Abdiqani Hassan in Somalia; Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)~

Al-Shabaab spokesman denies media reports

2/12/2009 12:35:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

BAIDOA (Sh. M. Network)-The spokesman of Al-Shabaab Islamist movement, Mukhtar Robow Ali (Abu Mansoor), denied Thursday that his group is negotiating with the newly elected Somali president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed and his government.

The spokesman held a press conference in Baidoa, the former seat of the Somali transitional parliament, and told reporters that his movement will rule Baidoa under Islamic Sharia law.

Al-Shabaab seized Baidoa last month after the Ethiopian troops pulled from it.

“We are not going to him and we will not meet him forever,” Abu Mansoor said.

“We warn Nigeria against sending its troops to our soil, we will fight with your soldiers,” Abu Mansoor added.

He vowed that they will continue the fighting against foreign troops and what he described as an “apostate” government until the country is ruled under the Sharia law.

Somalia’s president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said Tuesday that he met with some opposition leaders although he did not specify the members he met.

Government soldiers and Islamists fight in south-western town

Posted: 2/10/2009 6:59:00 PM
Shabelle: SOMQALIA

BAIDOA(Sh. M. Network)-At least three people were killed when Islamist insurgents of al-shabaab and government soldiers fought near Hudur district in Bakool region south-western Somalia, witnesses said on Tuesday.

The fighting started after Al-Shabaab Islamist group from Baidoa attacked bases of government soldiers near Hudur.

Residents say the dead were all combatants from the warring sides who were using heavy gunfire. The sound of artillery gunfire could be heard around the town.

People in the area have started to flee from villages near Hudur where the opposing factions are confronting. Clan elders have failed to mediate between the government soldiers and the Islamist insurgents of al-Shabaab.

Al-shabaab has seized Baidoa, the former seat of the transitional parliament, after the Ethiopian forces withdrew from the town last month.

Residents in Wajid district say, communications of Hudur town have been cut and it is difficult to get detailed stories from the fighting areas.

Government ministers who were ousted from Baidoa were amassing troops in Hudur town and said they were planning a big offensive against al-Shabaab to recapture Baidoa.

By: Ahmednor Mohamed Farah

More troops to be sent to Somalia

Posted: 2/10/2009 5:39:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

NAIROBI (Sh. M. Network)-Uganda and Burundi are this month expected to send additional soldiers to Somalia, bringing to 5,100 the number of foreign troops deployed to the war-torn country.

According to African Union Special Representative for Somalia Nicolas Bwakira, the two countries have already agreed to send an additional two battalions of 1700 soldiers to Somalia by the end of this month.

Nigeria is expected to boost this number and the AU Commission has already approached Ghana, Burkina Faso and Malawi to send soldiers to the country that has not had peace for nearly two decades.

Speaking at the start of a training workshop for civilian and military staff from the AU and a South Africa-based NGO, Accord, at the Hilton hotel in Nairobi, Mr Bwakira said the recent withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu has created a ‘security vacuum.’

He said the AU has confidence that newly-elected Somalia President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed will fulfil his pledge to ensure security in Somalia within the next six months.

“Somalia has gained momentum since the signing of the Djibouti agreement in August last year and we expect the new government of national unity to be in place by the end of this week,” he added.

The UN-sponsored agreement was signed between the Transitional Government and the Somali opposition on August 19 after talks in Djibouti.

Mr Bwakira said the AU commission had allocated $1 million (Sh77m) for the training and allowances of some 2,700 police officers for Somalia, a move, he said would boost the security situation in the country.

The police force is expected to increase to at least 10,000 officers in the coming months. Mr Bwakira described the humanitarian situation in Somalia as critical and said the new government would be expected to deal with it as its first priority.

Last Saturday, the newly-elected president was greeted with mortar attacks at the presidential palace in Mogadishu. D.Nation

US mosque denies link to missing Somali men

Posted: 2/11/2009 11:58:00 AM
Shabelle: SOMALIA

MINNEAPOLIS ( Sh. M. Network )-The leaders of a mosque in Minneapolis on Tuesday denied that the mosque is connected to the disappearance of young Somali men from Minnesota.

Some Somali families have said they're concerned their teenage sons or nephews may have been brainwashed to return to Somalia to fight in that country's civil war. But the leaders of the Abubakar As-Saddique mosque said they have been unfairly accused of playing a role.

Abdirashid Abdi, a board member and former executive director of the mosque, said officials there "share the pain and grief that the families of the youth who went to Somalia are experiencing."

But he added: "It is unfortunate that some individuals in the Somali community unfairly accused Abubakar Center to have links to the disappearance of the Somali young men. We strongly deny these unsubstantiated allegations. Abubakar Center didn't recruit, finance or otherwise facilitate in any way, shape or form the travel of these youth."

The trigger for Tuesday's news conference was a report in Sunday's Star Tribune on the disappearance six months ago of Mustafa Ali, an 18-year-old man from St. Paul who had been active in the mosque.

Minneapolis is home to one of the largest Somali communities in the U.S. A man who disappeared from Minneapolis is believed to have killed himself in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia last October.

FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson has said the agency is aware of people from throughout the U.S. and Minneapolis traveling to Somali to "potentially fight for terrorist groups." But Wilson would neither confirm nor deny that the FBI and the Justice Department were investigating. AP

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