Somalia split over hunt for Al Shabaab

Published: October 27, 2011

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed of Somalia appeared isolated from international allies, citizens and some leaders of his country following his criticism of the Kenyan operation against Al Shabaab militia.
An unhappy Internal Security Minister George Saitoti demanded an explanation from the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of President Ahmed, who was quoted as saying Kenya, is only welcome to train Somali troops. He alleged that the operation to rid Somalia of the terrorists fighting his government is illegal.
American and European officials on Tuesday joined some Somali residents in expressing dismay over comments from Somalia’s president that called on foreign military allies to stop twin advances against Islamic insurgents.
The remarks called into question President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed’s commitment to fighting his former allies — Islamist militants.
A US official said there was concern and dismay over Ahmed’s comments. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the press.
The US and the EU are the two biggest financial contributors to the AU mission. Neither is directly financially supporting the Kenyan operation, although Kenya receives military aid from both powers.
Officially, both African Union and Kenyan officials are tightlipped in their response to Ahmed.
And in a statement from Somalia’s Ministry of Information, the TFG — while thanking Kenya for its longtime efforts to stabilise the war-torn country — had a clincher: That the embattled government had agreed with Nairobi that co-operation in undertaking co-ordinated security and military operations be spearheaded by TFG soldiers trained by Kenya Government.
Signs of an imminent split with President Ahmed over the Kenyan incursion, dubbed “Operation Linda Nchi” first emerged on Tuesday when residents of Dhobley, a town near the border with Kenya, protested at his statement.
Many are increasingly seeing Ahmed, who was once a leader in the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that gave birth to Al Shabaab, as sympathetic to the very militants that have pinned his government to Mogadishu since he took office in 2009.

Own government

He now faces opposition in southern Somalia where a group supporting the incursion emerged on Tuesday and said they would form their own government in Udubland in south Juba.
On Wednesday, Ahlusunna Waljama (AWSJ), another group sympathetic to Kenya released a press statement condemning President Ahmed and the “extremist ideologies of Al Shabaab and affiliate Wahabi groups”.
The group said its militia had fought to free central Somalia from Al Shabaab “atrocities” for over three years.
The group said President Ahmed had exposed his sympathy for Al Shabaab on several occasions when he failed to condemn the Al Qaeda linked militant’s atrocities.
“The efforts and strides made by Kenya Defence Forces are well in accordance with what we the people of Somalia want. The comment and utterances by Al Shabaab and its sympathisers should not deter them from their ultimate goal of bringing peace in the region,” said AWSJ.
AWSJ said Kenya was forced to intervene in Somalia because Al Shabaab threatened its sovereignty and stability.
In Dhobley, the residents said most Somalis want Al Shabaab’s hold on their country destroyed.
“We thank Kenyan Government for it’s working together with Somali Transitional Federal Government to stabilise Somalia and for training Somali soldiers as well as hosting Somali refugees,” said the Ministry of Information statement forwarded to newsrooms on Wednesday.
“In fact, the people of Somalia as well as many of friends in the region, including Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia have suffered at the hands of Al Shabaab from their violence. We all share the need to defeat and destroy Al Shabaab. No one wants to see demise of Al Shabaab more than the people of Somalia,” it noted.
Saitoti said Kenya’s demands were necessitated by President Ahmed’s stand on the military operation that is being conducted jointly with TFG troops.
But TFG said they shared “the attitude that Al Shabaab constitutes a common enemy to both countries and in this regard,” and added that, “the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of both Somalia and Kenya should be respected.”
Said the Statement from TFG: “Therefore, to evolve a common security strategy, we agreed with our brothers, Kenyan Government, on the following: Co-operation in undertaking co-ordinated security and military operations spearheaded by TFG soldiers trained by Kenyan Government.”
The statement from TFG clarified that it was committed to ensuring stability in Somalia and stabilising areas freed from Al Shabaab. “We all share the need to defeat and destroy Al Shabaab. No one wants to see demise of Al Shabaab more than the people of Somalia.”
The TFG statement said co-operation and collaboration in sharing and exchange of information between Kenya and Somalia is relevant to the fight against cross-border crimes.
It said Somalia Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali is assigned to the matter and would appoint and head a joint security committee to work with their Kenyan counterparts.
President Ahmed appeared to renege on a deal reached on October 18 between the Somalia government official and Kenyan ministers Moses Wetangula (Foreign Affairs), Yusuf Hajji (Defence) at a meeting in Mogadishu on the ongoing operation against the Al Shabaab.
“Thereafter a joint communiquÈ outlining the joint operation between the Somali Transitional Government, Kenya and other Igad States was issued jointly by Somali and Kenyan ministers,” said Saitoti on Wednesday.
He added that since then Kenya has received conflicting media reports about the Somali government’s comments on the ongoing co-operation.
“In the light of this the Kenya Government is seeking clarification of the Somali government’s position as it is essential to have a unified approach in dealing with the destabilisation of Somalia by Al Shabaab, and its threats to peace and security to Kenya and the region,” said the Internal Security minister.
President Ahmed’s statement has sparked bitter criticism and protest in his own backyard, with Somalis saying they backed Kenyan military intervention.
Saitoti said Kenya, in collaboration with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) and the African Union would continue with the operation against Al Shabaab.
The demand by Kenya came after Somali MPs and elders disowned a statement by their president over Kenya’s military operations in Somalia.
MPs Haret Aden, Abdulahi Amin, and Abdurzack Haji said on Tuesday the statement had surprised them, and they had lost faith in President Ahmed.
Lost support
“We all know the favours that Kenya has done Somalia in the last 20 years. Even a child knows. President Ahmed has lost our support,” they said.
The MPs said they had decided to call the press conference after consulting elders and other leaders in Azania, a new state created this year through the help of Igad to rid Somalia of Al Shabaab and restore peace.
The MPs said people in Somalia had staged demonstrations against President Ahmed’s statement.
On Wednesday, the Somalia government petitioned the international community to redouble its efforts to help those most in need once central and southern Somalia are freed from the tyranny of Al Shabaab.
The statement read: “Once again we welcome the support of the International Community in defeating Al Shabaab and wish to emphasise the need to do this while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.”
The TFG regime stressed the need for “co-ordinated security and military operations spearheaded by TFG soldiers trained by Kenyan Government”.
Source: The Standard

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