OPNION / FIKRAD | Dr. M. Omar Hash | firstname.lastname@example.org | At the moment Turkish diplomatic efforts in Somalia spearheaded by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is bearing fruit. Today’s announcement on VOA and BBC Somali service that the Hizbul Islam opposition faction led by Hassan Dahir Aweys has disengaged and renounced membership from the Al-Qaeda controlled Shabaab terrorist organization could offer the best hope of a lasting peace in Southern and Central Somalia. The Hizbul Islam faction was focused on fighting the Ethiopian occupation from 2006-2009 with ultimate goal of working to secure a free Somalia. However, after the splintering of the Islamic Courts Union, the rogue merger of the Sharif Sheikh Ahmed faction with the Ethiopian-controlled TFG, as well as the rising militancy of the Al-Shabaab allied Al-Qaeda, the local Somali resistance fighters became leadership and without any direction.
Therefore, the Hizbul Islam defection today is an important and pivotal development that gives the newly elected Federal President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud in Mogadishu a golden political opportunity to effectively broker an end to the Somalia war, minus AlQeada. Turkey’s quiet diplomacy has enabled a negotiated settlement to be workable with the armed opposition groups on the ground. At the same time, Turkey with the assistance of tribal elders, businessmen, and humanitarian workers has effectively neutralized the radical wing of the Al-Shabaab terrorists by appealing directly to Somali sentiments to see peaceful statehood and justice.
However, the larger question in the coming days and weeks will be how Hassan Sheikh makes use of this golden gift from Turkey and capitalizes on it. While one must be very sceptical that Hassan Sheikh and his government will be any different from the predecessor Sharif Sheikh Ahmed gang (who also enjoyed such a rare opportunity in 2009), the undeniable reality in Mogadishu at the moment might prove otherwise. None of the major Hawiye clans in Mogadishu have come out directly against Hassan Sheikh’s agenda and if Turkey’s ambassador to Somalia Mr. Cemalettin Kani Torun can guide the negotiations (specifically keep out the Ethiopian and AMISOM occupiers) than the outcome could well be successful.
Yet, as recent history has painfully shown the so called Somali Islamists, now lead by Hassan Sheikh; have pitifully always failed to capitalize on golden opportunities to save Somalia. When in positions of authority, these so called religious leaders ( many of them illiterates and without proper political training) have become atrociously corrupt, petty and vindictive. Perhaps, with hopes of millions of Somalis Mr. Hassan Sheikh under Turkey’s guidance might finally understand what Sharif Sheikh Ahmed chose to purposefully ignore: a weak government negotiates with its enemies on the ground, not with its friends and foreign occupiers!