Cablegate: Somalia - Ars Delegation Arrives in Mogadishu, Rallies

DE RUEHNR #2759/01 3461210
P 111210Z DEC 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - ARS Delegation Arrives in Mogadishu, Rallies

REF: A) Nairobi 2543 B) Nairobi 2755

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On December 10, ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif Ahmed
and more than twenty other ARS leaders arrived in Mogadishu. This
is expected to be a permanent relocation. Sheikh Sharif was
encouraged to make the journey by supporters, who urged immediate
action on the ground in light of recent inroads by al-Shabaab. Upon
arrival at Mogadishu airport, Sharif was warmly welcomed by
residents, ARS supporters and TFG administrators. The ARS
delegation was composed of members of both the High Level Committee
(HLC) and the Joint Security Committee (JSC,) who joined their TFG
counterparts already in Mogadishu. Although an armed group
associated with Asmara-based elements of the ARS launched an attack
in Mogadishu, Sharif and the others were unharmed. The Embassy
released a public statement (paragraph 9) in support of the ARS
mission. End Summary.

Relocating Base to Mogadishu

2. (SBU) Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Chairman of the Alliance for the
Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS), led more than twenty ARS leaders in
relocating to Mogadishu on December 10. This was Sharif's second
trip to Somalia since the Islamic Courts Union was ousted in 2006.
In late October, the Chairman visited Jowhar, in Middle Shebelle
region, and Buloburde and Beletweyne towns in Hiran region (Ref A).
Taking off from Djibouti, the ARS delegation landed at Mogadishu
airport and was warmly welcomed by AMISOM, ARS and Islamic Court
supporters, members of the Transitional Federal Government,
including Police Commissioner General Abdi Awale Qeybdiid, and
Benadir regional administrators. Sheikh Sharif and some members of
the group are staying at Lafweyne Hotel in north Mogadishu while the
rest of the ARS leaders are staying at Nasahablood Hotel near K4
junction in south Mogadishu.

3. (SBU) An ARS leader and member of the JSC told us that due to
the recent inroads by al-Shabaab and other armed groups into the
territory that Islamic Courts-allied groups had previously
controlled (Ref B), Sharif supporters from the region came to
Djibouti to express the seriousness of the situation. These ARS
commanders convinced Sharif of the immediate need to take action on
the ground and to demonstrate practical progress on the Djibouti
process. So far, the visit has been very positively received by the
public who after learning of the arrival, flooded live radio shows
with calls of support.

4. (SBU) The trip was facilitated by the UN Political Office for
Somalia (UNPOS) and UNPOS officials told us that this was not a
visit, but a relocation of the ARS to Mogadishu. The ARS delegation
included five from the HLC and four from the JSC and many other
members of the ARS Executive ommittee and Central Committee who
were based in Djibouti after leaving Asmara earlier in the year.
According to UNPOS, there are now 58 members of the HLC and the JSC
who are now in Mogadishu. (Note: Several TFG ministers, officials,
and MPs who are part of the committees were already in Mogadishu).

ARS Factions Oppose the Move

5. (SBU) Immediately upon arrival, Sheikh Sharif and the ARS leaders
met with local elders and well-wishers, but the support is not
universal. Early morning December 11, an armed group associated
with the Asmara-based members of the Alliance for the Re-liberation
of Somalia (ARS-A) launched mortar attacks on TFG bases at Villa
Somalia in Mogadishu's Wardhigley district. The fighting is not in
close proximity to where the ARS leaders are staying. Ten were
reported killed and many others injured, though none in the ARS

6. (SBU) Abdirahim Isse Adow, a former Sheikh Sharif ally during
the Union of Islamic Courts period and now ARS-A spokesman, claimed
responsibility for the attack. Isse said Sheikh Sharif's arrival in
Mogadishu was a betrayal of the "resistance cause" and that it
showed he had sided with the "enemy" against Somalis. During a
December 10 press interview, ARS-A leader Hassan Dahir Aweys did not
answer the journalist's question of whether he sees Sheikh Sharif's
visit as a bold political step towards reconciliation and one that
will seal the DJ agreement. Aweys only spoke in general terms
saying that a visit to Mogadishu now is siding with the enemy.

NAIROBI 00002759 002 OF 002

7. (SBU) Prior to their departure from Djibouti, persons affiliated
with ARS-A leaders contacted Sheikh Sharif and advised him to land
at Iseley airstrip, about 20 km northeast of the capital, rather
than Mogadishu airport. They suggested that many Somalis would take
exception at Sharif landing at Mogadishu airport with AMISOM
support. Sharif initially agreed as a gesture of good faith to
reconcile with his former allies and encourage their support for the
Djibouti process. The same persons later advised Sharif that
security at Iseley airstrip could not be guaranteed because it is
controlled by no particular faction. Recognizing that these former
allies were trying to delay the mission, Sharif moved forward with
the planned departure and arrival at Mogadishu airport.

8. (SBU) While this move is intended to re-establish Sheikh Sharif
and the ARS base to Mogadishu, Sharif (and other ARS leaders as
required) are expected to travel to other parts of Somalia and
internationally as the need arises. Sharif plans to hold a press
conference to speak at length to the Somali people about his
mission. One of Sharif's close confidants, who is also in
Mogadishu, told us that under the leadership of Sheikh Sharif, the
ARS is committed to finding a solution to the Somali problem. He
said they are prepared to do whatever it takes to do find a peaceful
solution, no matter the risks.

Mission Statement

9. (U) In support of the ARS mission into Mogadishu, Embassy
Nairobi issued the following public statement:

ARS Chairman Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's Return to Mogadishu

The U.S. government welcomes the December 10 return to Mogadishu of
Chairman of the Alliance for the Re-liberation (ARS) of Somalia
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's presence
in Mogadishu, after an absence of almost two years, is a practical
step in the creation of a meaningful unity government.

We urge all Somalis to support the ARS's efforts to effect, in
active cooperation with the Transitional Federal Government,
reconciliation through the Djibouti Process. We urge as well those
groups and individuals who have opposed the peace process to join
efforts to create a unity government and end the suffering in


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