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New Era: Sign of Hope

Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.”
Jesse Jackson

By  Afyare Elmi & Ali Weheliye

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed - "His leadership, oratory and mobilization skills earned him the respect"

Even those who have intimate knowledge of the Islamic movements and politicians in Somalia hardly knew Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the man who led the popular uprising in the capital city, Mogadishu.  The forty-two-years old school teacher, accidentally, got involved with the Union of the Islamic Courts in Mogadishu when one of his students was kidnapped by bandits. Sheikh Sharif’s leadership, oratory and mobilization skills earned him the respect of many Somalis and non-Somalis throughout the world. It was a pleasant surprise to the residents of Mogadishu that the forces of the courts successfully chased the hated warlords from the capital city and surrounding areas in June 2006, thus ending their looting and tyranny.

The Somali people and the international community recognized this new force and new reality in Mogadishu. This and the subsequent events led to the Arab League-sponsored and Sudan-hosted peace conference between the Union of Islamic Courts and Somalia’s transitional government in Khartoum. The courts surprised the world again by sending a ten-member delegation led by Dr. Mohamed Ali Ibrahim. The members of the courts’ delegation have impressed the Arab Diplomatic corps in Sudan. Their competence, discipline, vision, and professionalism far exceeded than those of the government officials. 


On July 14, 2006, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Adow led a 16-member delegation of the Islamic Courts to participate in the second round of talks in Khartoum, Sudan. In both cases, the composition of their delegation was quite diverse. It included representatives from the civil society, independent intellectuals, Islamic Court officials, well-known politicians, and leaders of various organizations that participated in the popular uprising in Mogadishu.


Since the 1950s, the same generation of politicians (the old-guard) has dominated Somalia’s political stage. The leadership of the corrupt regimes, military dictators, and more recently the ruthless warlords kept the younger generations on the sidelines to watch their nation being dismantled piece by piece.


The generation that was born after the 1950s seemed to have been lost for ever, their education not being utilized for the benefit of their nation, their talents used or wasted in foreign countries, and their skills rendered useless and irrelevant. With the new changes in Mogadishu, that era of the old guards seems to have ended.  A new era of hope has dawned on the Somali nation.


For the past fifteen years, a good number of the younger generation of civil society leaders (Islamists, intellectuals, women’s groups) were visibly active in delivering social services to the public in the areas of education, health, justice, and mediating between warring parties. They became the main societal sector that concerned themselves with the well-being of the people as a whole. During this period, they have earned the trust and respect of the people and proved themselves to be reliable, resourceful and caring.  But, the respect and trust the general public accorded them in return, did not sit well with the warlords who have wreaked havoc in the capital for the last 15 years.


The warlords saw that this generation was a threat to their lordship in the future. Consequently, they did not waste time; they earnestly put together their ill-fated alliance with foreign financial support to cut this coming force in the bud.


On February 18, 2006, the warlords declared war on the Islamic courts on the pretext that the courts were harbouring international terrorists. However, the Somali people knew the warlrods’ real intentions and their sinister reasons of attacking the courts. The warlords have been in the business of killing and kidnapping innocent civilians, intellectuals and Islamic activists for years.  


This open declaration of war has defined the two camps and clearly drawn the battle lines. From that fateful day, the war between the warlords and courts raged through the streets of Mogadishu and neighbouring cities. 


After many battles, heavy death tolls, destruction of properties, and displacement of thousands of people, the Islamic Courts eventually prevailed and effectively defeated the warlords.  Most of the areas the warlords ruled (misruled) fell now under the Islamic court’s complete control. These unexpected developments have captured the headlines nationally and internationally.


Both Somalis and the international community realized that there is now a new team of players in Somalia’s political landscape. This new team was, in part, the lost generations of Somalia, the generations that were denied of their rightful place and political role in Somalia.


Unlike the warlords and the politicians of the old-guard, this new generations is well-educated and forward-looking. They are willing to take risks to achieve results. And that is why they are willing to sit and negotiate with the warlord-formed Transition Federal Government. The recent agreement in Khartoum is a clear indication of their pragmatism and goal-oriented thinking.


Given the recent positive development in Mogadishu and Khartoum, we believe, Somalis can now reasonably expect that the era of the old guard has come close to its end.  The future of Somalia is now much brighter than the yesteryears. And the Somali people are full of hope and determination. The younger generations, Islamists, civil-society leaders, women’s groups and independent intellectuals, have now role models in their future endeavours.  They can attest to the fact that bravery and perseverance bear fruits even if the fruition of such efforts were unbearably delayed.


That being said, we remind the leadership of the Islamic court that their supporters, and Somalis as a whole, will hold them accountable for achieving the stated of objectives of restoring security and putting the power to choose their leaders back in the hands of the people.


In conclusion, the magnitude of the tasks the courts faced, the speed with which the events happened, and the minimal numbers of mistakes made so far convince us that the new leadership will be equal to the challenge. These are exemplified by the recent military and diplomatic successes, such as expelling or disarming the warlords, opening the international airport and seaport, dismantling the invisible green lines and checkpoints, bringing the capital city under one authority, and showing genuine commitment to dialogue in resolving the pressing national problems.


Cali Weheliye iyo Afyare Cilmi

[email protected]


The opinions contained in this article are solely those of the writer, and in no way, form or shape represent the editorial opinions of "Hiiraan Online"

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