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Islamist leader wins Somali presidency

By on January 31, 2009

Somalia’s moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed won the presidency on Saturday. Mr Ahmed comfortably won a majority in a second round of voting after one of the frontrunners, Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, withdrew.

Mr Ahmed was until recently the leader of an opposition movement accused of having links to al-Qaeda.

The BBC’s Peter Greste in the region says he won the election as the one man who may be able to straddle the political extremes between the secular warlords, who until now have dominated government, and the Islamist al-Shabab militia.

Analysts say Ahmed has a real chance of reuniting Somalis, given his Islamist roots and the backing of parliament. But reconciling the country’s 10 million people and stopping 18 years of bloodshed remain a daunting task even for him.

“The conflict in Somalia will be resolved. We are urging our brothers in armed conflict to join us in peace-building,” he told parliament. “We will govern the Somali people with honesty and justice, and give them back their rights.”

After being sworn in at a hotel in Djibouti on Saturday morning, the Islamist will fly to the very country that chased him from Somalia to attend an African leaders summit. He then returns to Somalia to try and put together a unity government.

Earlier this week, 149 new opposition members from the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), which is led by Mr Ahmed, were sworn in to parliament.

Yusuf resigned as president in December. He had been accused by the prime minister and parliament of being an obstacle to peace in the country.
Despite the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops earlier this week, and the Djibouti peace process intended to reconcile the government and opposition, hardline Islamist insurgents led by al Shabaab have vowed to fight on. Al-Shabab militiamen control the former seat of parliament, Baidoa, and many other parts of central and southern Somalia.

About Armand Djoualeu

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