Cablegate: Somalia - Ars Chairman Leads Delegation Into Somalia

DE RUEHNR #2543/01 3090449
P 040449Z NOV 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - ARS Chairman Leads Delegation into Somalia

REF: A) Patterson-Garey emails B) Djibouti 840

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On November 1, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed,
Chairman of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), led
an eight-person delegation into Somalia. Encouraged by A/S Frazer
during a recent meeting in Nairobi to demonstrate leadership on the
ground (Ref A), the ARS Chairman made his first trip into the
country in over two years. Sharif began in Jowhar where he is
rallying support for the Djibouti Agreement, promoting a unity
government, and preparing to implement the cease-fire agreement
signed between the Somali government and ARS on October 26. The
delegation, comprised of key members of the High Level Committee and
the Joint Security Committee, has been well-received, though they
have also been threatened by hard-liners. Sharif is engaged in
private talks with groups from Mogadishu, most associated with the
Islamic Courts. Although Sharif had planned to stay in Jowhar only
for a few hours, his arrival in Beletweyn has been delayed by rains,
which have made the Hiran regional airport inaccessible. The ARS
delegation plans to leave Jowhar on November 4 and remain in
Beletweyn for at least a week, and maybe more depending on the
support they receive. End Summary.

ARS Leaders Return
to Advocate Peace

2. (SBU) On November 1, ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif led an
eight-person delegation into Somalia. It was Sharif's first visit
to the country in over two years, since the fall of the Islamic
Courts Union (ICU) in 2006. They began in Jowhar, the provincial
capital of Middle Shabelle region, 90 km north of Mogadishu, and a
stronghold during Sharif's leadership of the ICU. In public
speeches, Sharif rallied support for the Djibouti Agreement,
encouraged the establishment of a unity government, and talked about
creating the conditions within the ARS and the Islamic Courts to
implement the October 26 ceasefire agreement. Sharif is also
holding a series of closed-door discussions with local elders and
religious leaders, some of whom have come from Mogadishu to engage
in talks. Our contacts have told us the delegation has been warmly
received and some media reports suggest the same.

3. (SBU) The eight-member delegation, led by Sharif, comprises key
ARS leaders, most of whom are associated with the Islamic Courts
faction of the ARS. Most of the delegation members are from the
Hawiye clan that dominates central Somalia. They include Joint
Security Committee Chairman Omar Hashi Aden, the former ICU
Secretary for Internal Affairs, a former military colonel and
regional administrator in the Siad Barre regime. Hashi is extremely
influential in Beletweyn, and within his sub-clan (Hawiye/Hawadle).
Hashi's participation in the Djibouti Process was regarded by many
as a key turning point to gaining the support of military commanders
in the field. He played an active role in the Joint Security
Committee's negotiations that finally led to the signature of a
cessation of armed confrontation agreement (Ref B).

4. (SBU) Also part of the delegation is Ahmed Abdullahi Sheikh, ARS
information secretary and the former director of the Formal Private
Education Network that operated most of the primary and secondary
schools in Mogadishu prior to the fall of the ICU. Ahmed Abdullahi,
an ARS High Level Committee member, was a member of the ARS
delegation that met with A/S Frazer during her recent visit to
Nairobi. Abdurahman Mohamud Faarax "Janaqow" and Dahir Mohamud
Gelle, both members of the High Level Committee, are also part of
the ARS delegation.

Waging a Battle for
Somali Hearts and Minds

5. (SBU) The delegation traveled with three Al-Jazeera journalists
to garner favorable media coverage. ARS leaders acknowledged to us
they're waging a public diplomacy war with al-Shabaab and others,
and were keen to ensure their voices were heard during this
important visit. Arabic language Al-Jazeera reports that Sharif
called on all Somali groups to lay down their weapons, reconcile and
join a national unity movement. He publicly denied the existence of
wide-ranging opposition to the Djibouti agreement, and said the ARS
will support a unity government provided it puts an end to the
current crisis and is capable of serving the Somali people.

6. (SBU) The media has widely reported Sharif's remarks on various
issues, particularly on the friction between leaders in the ICU. He
reportedly said there are mediators in the country and that any

NAIROBI 00002543 002 OF 002

differences can be resolved through the Quran. Independent
religious leaders publicly called on factions associated with the
ICU to end internal conflicts and work toward peace. Despite these
calls, hard-line elements issued public statements highly critical
of Sharif and warning all persons not to work with the "traitorous"
ARS leaders. Our contacts within the ARS told us that they expected
these media messages, but that the people on the ground nevertheless
are responding favorably.

Continuing the Momentum

7. (SBU) If weather permits, Sharif plans to depart Jowhar for
Beletweyn on November 3 to carry his peace and reconciliation
message to the Hiran region. Hardliners have been threatening
persons in Hiran, and have warned Sharif directly against traveling
there. However, ARS leaders have told us that this visit is crucial
to building the necessary conditions for a ceasefire and that Sharif
is determined to show his mettle where it counts, on the ground.


8. (SBU) Sheikh Sharif's departure for Somalia almost immediately
after the IGAD Extraordinary Summit on Somalia came at the urging of
A/S Frazer and is an unusual, welcome, and courageous effort to
capitalize on positive momentum created by the creation of a unity
government. Sharif's willingness to build a constituency in Somalia
for the TFG - ARS merger rather than worry first about what
positions members of his Alliance will have in that government is a
breath of fresh air in a process that has, too much of the time,
been excessively preoccupied with status.


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