February 12, 2009

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, analyzes the selection of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as the new head of the Somalia’s “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) and argues that the development is unlikely to “alter the dynamics in the country, notwithstanding the wishful thinking that numerous African and other international actors continue to indulge in the absence of a grasp on reality, much less a strategic vision.”

After chronicling how the “election” was manipulated by unelected “representatives” camped out at a luxury hotel in neighboring Djibouti, the article profiles the new TFG leader—who is at least the sixteenth pretender to the chieftaincy of the failed Somali state since 1991—and examines both his less-than-promising start and the challenges he faces, including the continuing Islamist insurgency spearheaded by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab factions as well as Sharif Ahmed’s own tenuous grasp on reality (in an interview with ABC News earlier this week, he promised to mobilize a non-existent Somali navy to fight piracy). Dr. Pham concludes:

While it is entirely possible that Sharif Ahmed’s accession to the titular headship of the Somali state could herald an unexpected turnaround, it is probably more likely that the contrived nature of his “election” and the overall dynamics of the ongoing devolution of Somalia are such that it is but prelude to the wholesale unraveling of the transitional framework, opening the way for the conflict in the Horn of Africa to ratchet up to an entirely new level—one which those concerned with the immediate impact on the security situation in the subregion as well as the global repercussions of continued chaos there would be well advised to monitor closely .

To read the full text of the article, “Somalia Stumbles along with Sharif,” click here.