US Turns to Somali Courts Leader

The deep-seated Somali animosity towards Ethiopia and the unpopularity of the interim government are pushing the US to seek the help of Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed to stabilize the strategic Horn of Africa country, experts believe

US Turns to Somali Courts Leader

"Washington does not want Ethiopian to have the upper hand and believes its role ended with routing the Supreme Islamic Courts of Somalia (SICS)," Abdullah Nour, a Somali writer and researcher, told in an interview.

US Ambassador in Nairobi Michael Ranneberger plans to meet Sharif, the head of the SICS Executive Council, as early as Tuesday.

"The ambassador will urge Sheikh Sharif to counsel his supporters not to carry out violence and to support the development of an inclusive government," said US Embassy spokesman Jennifer Barnes.

"The US knows pretty well that the presence of loathed Ethiopian troops in Somalia would not secure the much-sought political stability and drive away those Washington sees as extremists and Al-Qaeda loyalists," Nour said.

The expert added that Washington is aware that the interim government is highly unpopular among Somalis because of its alliance with Ethiopia.

Sheikh Sharif has turned himself over to Kenyan authorities over the weekend and is currently staying in an upscale hotel under Kenyan protection.

He is considered the number two in the once powerful SICS, which was ousted from the capital Mogadishu and strongholds in southern Somalia in recent weeks by Ethiopian forces.

Sheikh Sharif had been the public face of the SICS when it first started to flex its muscles in January and February of last year, booting US-backed warlords from Mogadishu.

But once the capital fell, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, designated a terrorist by the US, took over as the group's supreme leader.

Aweys' whereabouts remain unknown but he is believed to be on the run somewhere in southern Somalia.

Pivotal Role

The first batch of Ethiopian troops left Mogadishu Tuesday. (Reuters)

Abu Bakr el-Badri, a Somali journalist, said the US considers Sharif as a moderate leader who can play a pivotal role in stabilizing Somalia.

"The Americans seem him as someone they can work with and the US ambassador in Nairobi had praised him," he noted.

The journalist said the US wants Sharif to influence his followers.

"They want him to urge his followers to engage the political process and eschew military confrontation with the government."

The SICS, which had managed to restore a semblance of order during a six-month stint in Mogadishu, has threatened a campaign of guerilla warfare against the interim government and their Ethiopian allies.

Badri said the embassy's confirmation that Ranneberger would be meeting Sharif is an enough proof that the Americans are willing to work with him.

The US, which backed Ethiopia's offensive and then launched unprecedented air strikes allegedly targeting Al-Qaeda operatives, had already said it believed Sharif could be a worthy interlocutor.

During recent talks with Somali Premier Ali Mohamed Gedi, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer pressed for talks with "moderate" SICS leaders.

She said Washington had already opened dialogue with Sheikh Sharif.

Ranneberger, whose mandate includes Somalia, met with Sharif in Nairobi last year after the SICS seized Mogadishu.

But Nour doubts Sharif's ability to stem resistance attacks.

"It is a grassroots resistance that emerged after the collapse of the courts fighters," he explained.

"Resistance fighters don't receive their orders from SICS leaders, but rather operate independently in small groups, mainly in the south."

Badri believes a quick withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from Somalia, as desired by the US, would spare Sharif this mammoth task.

Ethiopian troops began withdrawing from Mogadishu on Tuesday, nearly four weeks after they routed the SICS.

A special departure ceremony was held for the first batch of around 200 Ethiopian soldiers at the former headquarters of the Somali air force on the southern outskirts of the capital.

The African Union has agreed to deploy 7,600 peacekeepers for an initial six-month period in Somalia.

But only Uganda has so far publicly committed troops and the interim government is wary the continuing resistance attacks will act as a deterrent to others.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16