Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia
|Chairperson||Sheikh Sharif Ahmed|
|Preceded by||Islamic Courts Union|
|Merged into||Transitional Federal Government of Somalia|
|Headquarters||Asmara (Sep. 2007–Jan. 2009)|
Djibouti (June 2008–Jan. 2009)
The Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) was political party formed in Eritrea during September 2007 as the successor to the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). It served as the principal political opposition to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG). The organization would also participate in the 2007 and 2008 years of the insurgency during the Ethiopian intervention in Somalia.
In June 2008, the ARS and TFG signed a historic agreement that resulted in the integration of the ARS into the Somali transitional parliament. By January 2009, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the former head of both the ICU and the ARS, was elected as the President of Somalia.
History of the ARS
Members of the Islamic Courts Union, Transitional Federal Government officials, Somali diaspora and prominent figures of Somali civic society united to form a political party in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. Roughly 400 delegates of the Somali Congress for Liberation and Reconstitution, which included members such as ICU Executive chairman Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, former TFG Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, former Somali National Army General Jama Mohamed Ghalib, former TFG Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Mohamed Farrah, along with prominent members of women's groups approved a constitution and committee. The newly formed 191-member Central Committee was chaired by Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden. Al-Shabaab would reject an invitation to join the conference and later condemned the alliance. Reporters present for the creation of the ARS believed it was unlikely that the alliance would be Islamist-led, as the opposition would be hoping to draw on the broad political support and fundraising opportunities of the Somali diaspora. Hassan Dahir Aweys explicitly stated he did not hold any formal position in the Alliance, and the ARS would avoid giving him and other associated figures leadership positions.
Composition and aims
Despite assertions from outside observers that the ARS would not be Islamist led, head of the ICU Sharif Sheikh Ahmed would be elected head of the alliance. Prof. Ibrahim Hassan Addou, head of the ICU's foreign affairs department would be given the same position in the ARS. The alliance's Defence Secretary, Finance Secretary, Reconciliation Secretary and Justice Secretary positions were all staffed by former ICU officials. Members of civil society and the TFG would staff other positions in the ARS.
To the surprise of many observers, the ARS immediately took a militant stance on the Ethiopian presence in Somalia and declared war on Ethiopian military forces in the country. The alliance further decried the African Unions newly established peacekeeping operation, AMISOM, as an occupation force and demanded its withdrawal. The ARS would put out a communique on its position soon after stating:
“Resistance to the occupation is a legitimate and sacred right. It is a national duty as well as a religious obligation for all citizens,”
The ARS outlined its main objectives as follows:
- Liberating Somalia from Ethiopia
- Promoting Somali solutions through dialogue and peaceful means
- Combating crimes and violence against civilians
- Facilitating the resettlement of displaced people
- Organizing general elections once peace and security are established
- Establishing a National Government
Notably, the alliance announced it would refuse to engage in talks with the Transitional Federal Government unless Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia. Days following its formation, the US ambassador to Kenya and the US envoy to Somalia both publicly dismissed the ARS as an unimportant organization.
Conflict with Ethiopia and Al-Shabaab
"[The] Shabaab Movement will struggle to please God, and to kick out the enemy from the country. We know that the Asmara alliance has been given a condition of assassinating some members in the Shabaab Movement, so that they can be given recognition by the non Muslims..."
On 30 September 2007 the ARS claimed responsibility for committing an attack for the first time. Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) troops in Mogadishu were reportedly attacked in two locations in the city. The following year Sharif Sheikh Ahmed would confirm reports that the alliance had begun receiving financial support from the Egyptian government.
The Djibouti Agreement and 2008 merger
The Djibouti Agreement was a peace agreement signed by the ARS and the Transitional Federal Government in 2008. In January 2009 head of the ARS, and former head of the ICU, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected President of Somalia by the Somali Transitional Parliament.
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- "Somali opposition confirms receiving funds from Egypt". World News Connection. Radio Gaalkacyo. 4 May 2008.