Somalia: How Al-Shabaab's raids re-energised former President

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Political tensions have steadily risen in Somalia in recent weeks, leading to frequent confrontations between the opposition and FGS leadership. With three decades without a stable government, the fragile nation has been subjected to uncertainty due to clan politics and Al-Shabaab threat.
So fragile has been the situation that even Qatar has been secretly meddling in the internal affairs of the country to neutralise simmering tensions.
At the epicentre of the quagmire are President Mohamed Farmajo and one of his predecessor, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the 7th president of Somalia.
Sharif, a former lecturer who plunged into politics in 2003, has often ganged up against the current administration, accusing it of "incompetence".
Ahmed's concern about Al-Shabaab
While the alleged suppression of opposition leader and antagonist politics have been a major concern, frequent raids by Al-Shabaab seems to have re-energised the former leader.
For instance, Ahmed was one of the high profile leaders who recently accused Farmajo of "failing to protect our people" following December 28th Al-Shabaab raid.
The attack near Afgoye junction left at least 90 people dead and scores injured. Al-Shabaab has since 'apologised' to the civilians affected in the tragedy.
“Authorities have failed to establish a security plan to deal with deadly attacks in Mogadishu,” he told the Nation through a spokesman.
“The government should accept its failures in protecting citizens from Al-Shabaab,” he added, referring to car bombs last month, one of which killed 90 people.
Coalition of parties
Having already disowned Farmajo's ability to lead the country, the former Head of State mobilised six parties to form Forum for National Parties (FNP).
Regarded as the father of modern democracy in Somalia, Sheikh Ahmed led the country through the transitional government from 2009 to 2012.
FNP brings together his party Himilo Qaran, Ilays and the Union for Peace and Development led by ex-president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Others are the Progressive Party led by former ministers Sharif Hassan and Abdiweli Haas; Peace Party, chaired by former Jubbaland president Mohamed Abdi Gandhi; and Kulan Party, under Mohamed Siriin.
“Having strong political parties is the best way forward,” he said.
“Somali people need to be empowered to govern and defend themselves from Al-Shabaab.” 
Defeating Al-Shabaab in Somalia
And Ahmed now says he will use the old mechanisms to secure Somalia's dwindling security which has exposed residents to Al-Shabaab militants.
When FNP was formed, the coalition said it would demand that the vote not be delayed and that it could create a better security policy.
“He is the right person to lead Somalia. Under his leadership, Shabaab were driven out of Mogadishu,” said Mohamed Hassan Idriss, a federal MP.
“If the government were serious, Al-Shabaab would have been dismantled. We suspect the group is getting help or some form of cooperation from the government.”
Hussein Arab Essa, another Federal MP, said Ahmed’s community policy helped defeat the group.
“Locals shared information because they saw what he was doing,” Essa said.
“There were no roadblocks during that time. People moved freely as they had nothing to fear.”
FGS ties with Al-Shabaab
While the Federal Government has often dismissed claims that it's sponsoring Al-Shabaab militants, the opposition has often accused it of being sympathetic to them.
When Ahmed was president, he guided SNA and allies including Ethiopia to flush the militants to remote villages in Somalia.
Abdirahman Abdishakur, the leader of Wadajir party, recently accused FGS of "sympathising with terrorists to create chaos in Somalia".
The FGS, he added, was keen to create anxiety using Al-Shabaab to "cause fear so that it can extend its term beyond December".
FNP through Sharif Sheikh Ahmed supported the claims and warned FGS against any attempts to "illegally extend their term".
Frequent opposition condemnations
Ever since forming FNP, Ahmed, who is the coalition's Chairman, has revamped the opposition, often issuing press statements.
Besides inability by the Federal Government to contain Al-Shabaab, the opposition has often accused the government of unfairly suppressing the opposition.
For instance, Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud were blocked when travelling to Jubaland to attend swearing-in of President Ahmed Madobe.
In a statement, a furious Ahmed said "we shall flush this incompetent government out of Mogadishu as we did to Al-Shabaab militants.
Concerned with the tensions, Farmajo hastily organised a meeting with the opposition leaders but they have since disowned the MOU.
Stalemate at Regional State Governments
While the Al-Shabaab threat remains a big concern, Mr Ahmed has also expressed concerns about the sour relationship between FGS and RSG.
State governments, Farmajo had said, "are working with foreigners to overthrow my government but I will not allow them any soon".
But Ahmed has often fired back accusing Farmajo of interfering with the independence of the semi-autonomous regions.
FGS, he has often claimed, has been collaborating with Ethiopian non-AMISOM troops to interfere with the operations in federal states citing Jubaland and Galmadug.