From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Sat Jan 31 2009 - 05:21:37 EST
Moderate Elected President in Somalia
By MOHAMMED IBRAHIM
Published: January 31, 2009
malia/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> Somalia - A moderate Islamic cleric was
elected president of Somalia early Saturday morning by the Somali
Parliament, which was meeting in Djibouti.
The cleric, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, headed the Islamic courts movement
that governed the capital, Mogadishu, and most of southern Somalia until
2006. Some analysts had said they thought that Sheik Sharif had the best
chance of all the candidates for president to unite Somalis, because of his
Islamist roots and his acceptability to a variety of factions.
Parliament was selecting a replacement for the former president,
f_ahmed/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who resigned in
late December after four years in office. A former warlord, Mr. Yusuf had
been widely blamed for Somalia's deepening crisis and had been steadily
The lawmakers broke into applause when Sheik Sharif reached the minimum
number of votes needed for victory, 213, a little before 4 a.m. during an
all-night session of Parliament. The legislators were meeting in Djibouti,
just north of Somalia, under a
nations/index.html?inline=nyt-org> United Nations-brokered deal to establish
a unity government between the transitional government and moderate
"I promise that I will serve my people loyally and neutrally without color
or clan," Sheik Sharif told the lawmakers after the balloting. "I call other
Somalis who are not part of this peace process to join us."
He defeated Gen. Maslah Mohamed Siad, the son of the former dictator, Maj.
Gen. Mohammed Siad Barre, in the second round of voting. The outcome seemed
likely after Prime Minister
sein/index.html?inline=nyt-per> Nur Hassan Hussein withdrew from the
balloting after the first round. He had been considered Sheik Sharif's main
rival for the presidency, but he withdrew after winning only 59 votes in the
In Mogadishu, where many people stayed up all night to follow the election
on radio and television, people celebrated in the streets immediately
afterward, with shots being fired into the air.
For Sheik Sharif, the burden of reconciling Somalia's 10 million people and
ending 18 years of bloodshed will be daunting. Most of Somalia is controlled
by various Islamist militias, although some of the moderate Islamist groups
support the government. The government itself controls only a few blocks of
ab/index.html?inline=nyt-org> Shabab, a hard-line Islamist militia, controls
most of Mogadishu and much of the southern part of the country. It has
denounced the election in Djibouti as meaningless, and on Monday captured
the seat of Parliament in the town of Baidoa.
Somalia has been without a functioning central government since 1991, when
General Siad Barre was removed from power and the army fell into the hands
of clan militias, who turned on one another and left the country largely in
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