Sheikh Sharif: A history of balancing acts

Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed . REUTERS

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Somalia’s 47-year old president, is a media savvy politician who has inculcated a sophisticated image on the global media scene as a moderate reformist who is doing the most difficult job on earth — trying to bring peace to his country.

To Ethiopia and Kenya, who helped him get elected the president of the Transition Federal Government in Somalia, Sheikh Sharif is the man of the struggle, a former schoolteacher who was drawn to fight Al Shabaab after his pupils were kidnapped by the terrorists.

On Monday, however, he shocked regional security specialists when he withdrew his support for Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia.

The Kenyan authorities, who claimed to have involved him in the planning of the onslaught, demanded clarifications, while his own prime minister and his people protested against his words.

Whatever his misgivings, Sheikh Sharif’s public position puts him in clear and present danger from both friends and enemies.

His apparent unease with Kenya’s military adventure inside Somalia has put him in the limelight regarding his strategy for solving the long-running Somalia problem.

Even though President Sharif later expressed his readiness to work with Kenya, his earlier denunciation of Kenya’s military campaign revealed that he is under some sort of pressure, either from forces within his government or within Al Shabaab itself.

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