|Join Our Mailing List|
The marriage of convenience between Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the moderate Islamist militia of Ahlu Sunna Waljamaa (ASWJ) is deteriorating due to a deepening political rift that is causing misunderstanding and mistrust between the two groups that united to fight al-Shabaab insurgents.
Leaders of ASWJ are now pressuring Villa Somalia, the TFG's seat of government, to accept their grievances over administrative and regional leadership roles so that the current cooperation can be maintained in order to finalize the war against insurgents.
ASWJ is seemingly finding itself holding the wrong end of the stick despite fighting alongside and in front of TFG soldiers to push the hardline militants from the country. There is a powerful indictment of a ‘use and dump’ attitude from the side of the TFG and the apathy within the Sunnis is growing each day casting doubt on the future cooperation between the two sides.
ASWJ has continually contributed troops to the fight against Shabaab, working closely with Ethiopia to secure key towns throughout central Somalia. Such successes, however, leaves the question of who controls the town up for debate as was the case with Beledweyne.
“Without ASWJ it was clear that TFG could not have achieved such victorious moments in central Somalia. It was through our outstanding military support and determination that resulted in successful operations which yielded the territorial gains against al-Shabaab,” Sheikh Hassan Abudwak, ASWJ chairman in Abudwak, told Somalia Report.
“The government is exercising authority beyond its powers. We don’t want them to interfere with our administration and there should be a mutual discussion. There is no way, therefore, we can accept a political framework with TFG so long as it does not suit our stand,” he added.
The contentious debate on the constitution and the anticipated political realignment ahead of a possible election in August is causing some political friction across Somalia, adding up to the concern of the leadership of ASWJ who believe that they are not getting the required attention from the government particularly in areas that they control.
The group’s catalogue of complains include the recent appointments of administrative officers in the areas they rule and accusing the transitional authorities of refusing to consult on sensitive issues that touches on the security of local populations.
Over the past few months, the ASWJ has been frustrated that the TFG could appoint their own leaders to rule areas under ASWJ control without considering the views and the grievances of the ASWJ and the local residents.
“It is illogical for the TFG to decide on matters pertaining to the administration of the region without considering what we really want. We are the ones who fought for the freedom of many regions in Somalia and we happen to be the people of the region. We won’t tolerate the TFG to name outsiders to come and rule our territory while those of us who fought in the battle field are there and are willing to take administrative posts in the region,” the regional chairman said.
ASWJ claims that they supported the TFG in the hour of need and their expectations were to be part and parcel of the available regional portfolios. But this, they say has not happened at this point in time, belittling the efficiency and authority of the group.
The debate on the constitution also introduced further separation between TFG and ASWJ. There are some articles which ASWJ strongly opposes because they believe is against their own interest and that of the entire Muslim community.
Freedom of worship is one contentuous article as the ASWJ termed the article irrelevant to the predominantly Muslim community. The group is also opposed to the article on equal rights to both genders in all circumstances of social, economical and political aspects of life. These two bills they say are against the fundamental creed of Islam, the religion of the majority in Somalia.
Until now the position of the TFG regarding its emerging disagreements with its ally ASWJ is not clear. A bloody confrontation might be the result if TFG refuses to give in to the demands of the group that has started losing some of its strongholds to al-Shabaab.
The recent seizure of Mahaas district in Hiraan region and Elbur district in Galgadud region after troops from TFG and ASWJ retreated, underlines the cost of the current disagreement further nurturing regional power struggles at a time when Somalia is close to some form of solution.
In March 15, 2010, the government entered an agreement with ASWJ granting them some ministerial and diplomatic portfolios in exchange for their military support against al-Shabaab who then ruled large swaths of Southern Somalia.
Since then, the top brass of ASWJ developed a defining relationship with the authority of President Sharif as they sought to oust their common enemy. The beleaguered government and its ally maintained a mutual cooperation which forced opposition insurgency group al-Shabaab to be dislodged from a number of strategic towns in South-Central Somalia.