SOMALI REGIME IN AN ATTEMPT TO SPLIT INSURGENCY
Somalia’s government has signed, on Monday 03/15/2010, a deal with a militia group Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca (ASWJ), to bring it on side before an expected military offensive against al-Shabab and other groups fighting to topple the administration.
Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca (ASWJ), which is made up of moderate Sufi Muslims, reached an agreement in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Monday to work together to battle al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam fighters (see – Ethiopian-Somali War).
Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam have been fighting the western-backed transitional government since 2007. They control much of southern and central Somalia, while government troops control a few blocks of the capital, Mogadishu.
ASWJ’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Mahmoud Sheikh Hassan, said the groups would need financial support from the international community to integrate their administrative, leadership and military structures and fight al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam. “This is not a fight or struggle against people but against an ideology,” he said at the ceremony.
“The meaning of this agreement is to save the people of Somalia and the reputation of the Islamic faith.”
Somalia has a Sufi tradition going back more than five centuries. The country’s Sufis have been angered by the desecration of graves, the beheading of clerics, and bans on celebrating the birth of Prophet Muhammed imposed by the radical Wahhabism fighters.
Sheik Sharif Ahmed, Somalia’s president, has agreed to implement a more moderate version of shariaa.
Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the Somali prime minister, said that under Monday’s deal, Ahlu Sunna would be given five, as yet undetermined, posts in the cabinet and would appoint deputy commanders of the military, the police and the intelligence services. “This agreement is a victory for peace and a crushing defeat for extremist groups,” he said.
Hizbul Islam said Ahlu Sunna would just lose support by joining a government which has little influence outside Mogadishu and is often criticized as being corrupt and divided.
In Dubai and also on Monday, Somali Islamist politicians, thinkers and scholars held a conference attended by Sheik Sharif Ahmed. The conference called on warring factions in Somalia to lay down arms immediately and start direct talks.
The attendees urged the anti-government fighters to join the government and parliament and leave the “nation’s [religious] scholars” to mediate and solve their country’s crisis.
A recent report released by the UN blamed Eritrea for supporting anti-government fighters in Somalia, but also described Somalia’s government forces as “corrupt, undisciplined and inefficient”.
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