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West ‘backing the wrong horse’ in Mogadishu peace initiatives
A good number of the men who led the movement had an easy excuse to leave the jihad to others by taking flights to Saudi Arabia. They simply joined thousands of Somalis and millions of Muslims from around the world performing the Hajj pilgrimage.
Sheikh Muqtar Robow Abu-Mansor, the deputy head of the UIC’s defence, followed in the footsteps of his boss, Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siyad Indhacadde. Sheikh Fuad Mohamed, the UIC’s youth and education executive and others in the leadership also headed for Mecca. This group was said to have deliberately avoided the jihad, but caused resentment because of their departure at a time the Islamists were facing growing pressure from the TFG forces, supported by Ethiopian troops.
Reports from Lower Juba, especially close to the Kenyan border, indicate that the UIC combatants are now in complete disarray.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is said to be ailing and left for treatment in Egypt just before the war between the TFG and the UIC began on December 19, 2006. A top militia leader, Adan Hashi Ayrow, is said to have been seriously wounded in a remote area in the vast Lower Juba region. The Americans and Ethiopians are claiming credit for Ayrows’ predicament, but nobody knows whether the militia leader was truly hurt during the US air strike or by the Ethiopian ground troops.
News of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former executive leader of the UIC, surfacing in Kenya was received with mixed reactions in Mogadishu. Many who were disappointed by the UIC leadership opting to go Mecca during a crucial moment for the jihad are expressing bitterness at Sheikh Sharif for giving himself up to the Kenyan government and, effectively, the Americans.
The fact that US diplomats repeatedly stated that they had always been in touch with Sheikh Sharif and they trust him as a moderate leader did not appeal to many people who believed in the cause of the UIC. “Sheikh Ahmed has become an American stooge,” remarked an UIC sympathizer in Mogadishu.
Those who challenged the sheikh in the battles at Galgalato suburb and CC (locally pronounced as Sii Sii) neighborhood in Mogadishu, will not easily forgive him. One such militia leader is Nuur Dhiqle, whose combatants fought the forces of the UIC at CC over one week in May last year.
Sheikh Ahmed’s main backer in Mogadishu, Sheikh Abukar Omer Adaan, is now in a Kenyan prison. Many people in Mogadishu wonder what role Sheikh Ahmed actually played since he was not in the policy making upper division of the UIC.
Besides, his own clan had no vested interest in the business of the Courts. “If the Western powers are looking for influential people, they should seek out Sheikh Aweys or Aden Ayrow,” said a city resident. “These are the people who can neutralize the resentment felt by some clansmen after the defeat of the UIC,” he added.
In Somalia, when political groupings or even associations cease to exist, their members automatically break up and rejoin their clans or sub-clans. This even affected the Somali government and the state establishment in the late 1980s when the socialist leaders, who were weakened by rebel groups, disintegrated and reintegrated into their respective clans.
Even the then president, Mohamed Siyad Barre, fled to his Mareehan clan at Garbaharey town, 400km west of Mogadishu. When the rebel leaders failed to agree on a government formula to fill the vacuum left by the dictatorial regime in early 1990s, each remained with his clansmen.
The UIC was perceived as a strong coalition with high moral and religious principles cementing the bonds that united its followers. Its members built around them the stereotype of being an incorruptible club of serious men who would not countenance failure.
But when the Islamists decided to face upto the TFG, their leadership miscalculated the mastery of President Abdillahi Yusuf. Neither the Shura members, led by Sheikh Aweys, nor the executive body of Sheikh Sharif, took full cognizance of the fact that they were confronting a senior military man had who reached the ranks of a colonel way back in the late 1960s.
Col Abdillahi Yusuf’s military career was followed by to years in the guerrilla war against Siyad Barre. When the faction leaders brewed chaos, he steered clear of it by initiating and ruling the semi-autonomous state of Puntland in northeastern Somalia. He remained the de facto head of state while his counterparts were butchering people in south and central Somalia.
President Yusuf and the rest of the TFG may be right in their reluctance to sit down with Sheikh Sharif. “Sheikh Sharif can neither represent the UIC — because he was not its mastermind — nor his clan, which is not in conflict with the TFG,” said a politician from north Mogadishu.
The TFG leadership must, therefore, be surprised to hear Western diplomats praising Sheikh Ahmed or Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the sacked parliamentary speaker. “It is more realistic to say that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys could make a difference because a large section of his rebellious Habargidir sub-clan may listen to him if he announces peace with the TFG,” observed a political analyst in the city.
Source: East African