[dehai-news] (Reuters): New Somali leader feted in capital of former enemy

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Feb 02 2009 - 06:51:37 EST

New Somali leader feted in capital of former enemy


By Barry Moody and Barry Malone

02 Feb 2009 11:15:06 GMT


ADDIS ABABA, Feb 2 (Reuters) - African leaders on Monday feted Somalia's new
moderate Islamist president at a summit in Ethiopia, which chased him from
power two years ago.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed enjoyed a standing ovation from African Union leaders in
Addis Ababa, two days after he was elected to lead the Horn of Africa nation
in a parliamentary vote.

But in Somalia, militant Islamists declared jihad against Ahmed and mocked
his trip to his former enemy, rallying their supporters for war against the
new government.

Ahmed headed a sharia courts movement that brought some stability to
Mogadishu and most of south Somalia in 2006, before Washington's main
regional ally Ethiopia invaded to oust them.

Washington accused hardline members of the courts movement of having links
with al Qaeda.

Ethiopia's army withdrew last month, clearing the way for Ahmed's election
and raising tentative hopes for peace in the anarchic nation, torn by
conflict for 18 years.

AU Commission chairman Jean Ping, opening the second day of the annual
African Union summit, introduced Ahmed, saying "some shades of hope have
appeared in Somalia". Ahmed smiled, waved and bowed in response to the

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed Ahmed.

"All of us can take pleasure in the progress towards a peaceful settlement
in Somalia," he said in his speech. "I count on your leadership and wise and
visionary leadership."




Elected in a U.N.-brokered peace process in neighbouring Djibouti, Ahmed,
42, will fly to Mogadishu straight after the summit to put together a unity
government and face the threat of militant Islamist insurgents led by the al
Shabaab group, who control swathes of southern Somalia.

"We shall fight the so-called government of Sharif in every place!" Sheikh
Hayakalah, who heads the Islamic court in the Shabaab-held port of Kismayu,
told a crowd on Sunday.

Al Shabaab grew out of the armed wing of the sharia courts movement but
later split with Ahmed.

"He is now with our number one enemy, Ethiopia, and calling for more support
from non-believers. Imagine how Sharif, who was once our leader, deceived us
and Islam," Hayakalah said.

The al Shabaab spokesman for Kismayu, Sheikh Hassan Yacqub, also attacked
the new president.

"Sharif Ahmed is a traitor and we should fight him. Help us with your sons,
weapons and wealth, so that we uproot this irreligious government of Sharif
before it gets strong."

While Sharif has widespread support among many factions in Somalia, key to
his success will be neutralising al Shabaab by defeating or isolating them
or even bringing them into an alliance.

In Somalia there are rumours of splits within al Shabaab. Locals also say
its popular support has waned due to hardline practices like prohibitions on
watching foreign films, and executions and other public punishments.

Since an insurgency began at the start of 2007, some 17,400 Somali civilians
have died in fighting, at least a million people have fled from Mogadishu,
and a third of the population needs food aid in one of the world's worst
humanitarian crises.


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