[dehai-news] Garoweonline.com: Somalia: Situation Brief

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Feb 18 2009 - 07:28:13 EST

Somalia: Situation Brief

18 February 2009



President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad's chances of success in holding
together Somalia's Transitional Federal Institutions took a hit on February
13 when he appointed Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke as his prime minister.

The weak protagonist in a fragmented conflict, Sh. Sharif is most
immediately hobbled by a tug of war for his political will between the
"international community," upon which he depends for diplomatic and
financial support, and his base of clerical support represented in his
Djibouti faction of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia
(A.R.S.-D), which controls 200 seats in the expanded 550 seat transitional
parliament. The donors want Sh. Sharif to be "inclusive;" his clerical base
wants him to implement Shari'a law. By selecting Sharmarke, Sh. Sharif caved
in to the donors and chose their replacement for Nur Adde Hassan Hussein - a
humanitarian bureaucrat without a political base, who mentioned nothing
about implementing Shari'a when he addressed the press after his nomination.
Simultaneously, Sh. Sharif announced that he would implement Shari'a law,
attempting to mollify his clerical base.

Sh. Sharif's selection of Sharmarke sets up a formally identical relation to
the one that characterized the Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) in
the preceding administration under Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Nur Adde, with
Sharmarke playing Nur Adde's role of handmaiden to the donors and Sharif
trying to grab control of the transitional mechanisms and make his base the
core of a machine that might spread out (in the best-case scenario) to form
a governing coalition. The tension set up between what Sh. Sharif and
Sharmarke represent weakens Sh. Sharif's potential hold on the
T.F.G.,requiring him either to compromise with the donors or to fight
Sharmarke as Yusuf fought Nur Adde. Sh.Sharif also has to contend with
parliamentary speaker, Sheikh Adan Madobe, who represents the old clan-based
and warlord-riven transitional legislature, the majority of which voted
against Sharif in the presidential election. The T.F.G. is now structured as
it was before: an Islamist replaces a clanist; a humanitarian bureaucrat
replaces a humanitarian bureaucrat - new wine in old bottles, old wine in
old bottles.

The response to the selection of Sharmarke was predictable. The donors
crowed about how the new prime minister would be a "bridge" between the
Islamists and the wider world. The Islamic scholars expressed support for
Sh. Sharif's announcement that Shari'a would be implemented, adding that
they would be watching him closely and would tell him if he got out of line.
Sh. Sharif's Hawiye Abgal sub-clan and some of the wider Hawiye clan family
remained supportive. He kept his A.R.S.-D bloc together in the parliamentary
vote confirming Sharmarke. He won the open support of the Islamic Courts
Union's military wing on the ground in Mogadishu, which was already linked
to his faction. By selecting Sharmarke, a member of the Northern Darod clan
family, Sh. Sharif won the qualified support of the Puntland sub-state,
which said it would work with him as long as he followed a policy of
"Federalism" that would insure Puntland's autonomy. In reaction, the
Southern Darod withdrew support from Sh. Sharif, because he had not chosen a
member of the Marehan sub-clan as prime

minister. Despite rumors of a softening position, the self-declared Republic
of Somaliland ruled out renouncing its full independence. The armed
opposition to

the T.F.G.- al-Shabaab and the newly formed Islamic Party (Hisbul Islam) -
kept up their rejection of Sh. Sharif's administration, despite reports that
they had met with him. Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, expressed
satisfaction, saying that Addis Ababa had succeeded, through its
intervention in Somalia, in splitting the Courts Movement and isolating
al-Shabaab so that Islamist irredentism was no longer a threat.

The responses to the selection of Sharmarke show that the structure of the
political situation in Somalia has not changed appreciably from what it was
before Sh. Sharif assumed the T.F.G.'s presidency. The same forces have the
same interests and have merely repositioned themselves in response to a new
T.F.G. presidency representing different sectoral interests than the old
one. On the ground micro-politics dominates with each local sub-clan
retreating to protect itself and calculating which political force will gain
momentum in its region so that it can go with the flow until another force
becomes dominant.

A closed source in the Gulf states reports that the Somali business
community there has been hit hard by the global financial crisis and
attendant recession, and is wary of financing Sh. Sharif because of his
perceived inexperience and lack of political skills. The money they have
will be primarily directed to their sub-clans and the political forces that
they believe best represent them.

Expect Sheikh Sharif to attempt to gain control of the T.F.G., which will be
a full-time job with a diminished probability of success. Torn between the
donors and his base, with groups on the outside or on the margins holding
his feet to the fire, Sh. Sharif will find it very difficult to advance. A
misguided policy of "inclusion" forced on Sh. Sharif by the donors points in
the direction of his failure.

Sh. Sharif is unlikely to be able to break out of the T.F.G.'s mechanism to
make significant gains. Somaliland and Puntland are off the table. The
southern regions of Somalia are in the hands of the armed opposition, which
is likely to gain greater support from the Marehan. The south-central
regions are disputed, with support growing for the armed opposition. The
situation in Lower Shabelle is confused, but dominated by the armed
opposition. The central regions of Middle Shabelle and Hiraan are supportive
of Sh. Sharif; Galgadud - the base of the Hawiye-Ayr sub-clan is disputed;
and southern Mudug remains relatively autonomous. Sh. Sharif is unlikely
gain the political momentum necessary to change this power configuration,
which - if it holds - prefigures de facto, if not de jure, cantonization of
southern and central Somalia, which would work most of all for Addis Ababa's

Dr. Michael A. Weinstein, Professor of Political Science, Purdue University


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