An Islamic leader of Somalia’s ousted Islamic movement surrendered to Kenyan authorities raising hopes that the moderate Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed can facilitate moderation of widespread Jihadist insurgency in Africa. Ahmed crossed over into Kenya and surrendered to a border post saying that he was afraid for his life in Somalia at the hands of Ethiopian forces hunting down remnant Council of Islamic Courts cadre.
The United States was quick to disavow this surrender saying that it was “not holding or interrogating” Ahmed and was “not involved in his capture of surrender” but US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger vouched for Ahmed’s credentials as a moderate who could be involve in the reconciliation process.
As Chairman of the Executive Council of Islamic Courts, Ahmed shared power with the more hard-line chairman of the group's legislative council Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys who is wanted by the US on suspicion of ties with the al Qaeda. Diplomats believe that if Ahmed is willing to mediate and facilitate peace, it may arrest widespread insurgency in Somalia and elsewhere in the region. Kenya also handed Somali authorities 34 capture militiamen, some of then could be senior leaders.
The European Union is urging Somalia to pursue this “window of opportunity” but it is not clear if they will buy this theory. Western leaders say that negotiated settlement with the Islamists is the “only way to get long-term stability and peace in Somalia” but it is not clear why such philosophy is not followed in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, or other West Asian nations. Admittedly, the Islamic movement in Somalia is more recent than in West Asia but trivializing the movement is dangerous.
The African Union is willing to send as many as 8000 peacekeepers but that deployment in unlikely to happen if fighting continues.