By EAST AFRICAN TEAM (email the author)
Will it be the prolific author and French educated PhD Dr Mohammed Abdi Gandi or the former warlord Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed Islam, known also as Sheikh Ahmed Madobe?
It is widely held within the intelligence community in the region that the choice of either is of great interest to two regional powers, Kenya and Ethiopia.
Gandi, who is a former minister of defence of Somalia, and the current “president of Azania” (Jubaland) is said to be the candidate favoured by the Kenyan intelligence establishment. He is based in Kenya and is also said to be a favourite with the French.
Nicknamed “Gandi,” Mohammed hails from the Ogaden sub-clan of the Darod, which is prevalent in Kenya and Ethiopia.
The choice of Gandi is said to make Addis Ababa uncomfortable, largely because of the notion that he could harbour the territorial ambitions of his people to carve out an Oromia super-state that unites the Oromo population in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia.
Ethiopia’s ambassador to Kenya Shemsudin Ahmed however, says that his people know Gandi well and they have a good working relationship. Ethiopia also supports Kenya’s military incursion.
He said that Ethiopia’s worry is foreign powers such as Eritrea that have in the past supported Oromo insurgents.
Gandi holds PhD degrees in geology and anthropology and history.
A former research scientist at the IRD in Paris, Gandi was awarded an International Baccalaureate Diploma. He also served as a senior programme advisor of UNDP Somalia in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR).
An active participant in the Somali peace process, Gandi was lead consultant in an initiative called “Mapping the Somali Civil Society.” He also chaired the Technical Committee at the Arta Somali Peace process that took place in Arta, Djibouti, as well as being a member of the Somali civil society at the Somali Peace and Reconciliation Conference that was held in Kenya.
An accomplished author, Gandi has published eight books in addition to more than 40 scientific articles in various academic journals.
In February 2009, Gandi was appointed Somalia’s minister of defense by the nation’s then head of government, prime minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. He held the position until November 2010.
In April 2011, the new autonomous region in southern Somalia referred to as Azania (formerly Jubaland), was formed and Gandi took over as its first president. Gandi’s first stated policy initiative is to remove the Al Shabaab group of militants from the territory.
Sheikh Ahmed Madobe is the chairman of the Ras Kamboni movement. As a member of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) he was governor of Kismayu in 2006.
This is the man favoured by Kenya’s military establishment and Ethiopians who have dealt with him.
The military view Madobe in a good light because he has commanded a militia in the past and he could easily raise an army.
When the ICU was overthrown by the Ethiopian National Defense Force, he fled towards the Kenyan border when he was wounded, and later received medical treatment at an Ethiopian hospital. He was later arrested by the Ethiopians.
When the Somali parliament expanded to 550 MPs, he was elected MP in January 2009 and released from Ethiopian prison.
In April 2009, he announced his resignation from parliament.
Sheikh Ahmed Madobe was the leader of Ras Kamboni Brigades (the predecessor to the Ras Kamboni movement) which was allied to Hizbul Islam. In October 2009, armed conflict between Hizbul Islam and Al Shabaab began in a dispute between a fraction of the Ras Kamboni Brigades and Al Shabaab over who was in charge of Kisimayu.
The Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia and Jabiso, which were aligned to Al Shabaab in Hiiraan and Mogadishu refused to support the Ras Kamboni Brigades.
This also led to a split within the Ras Kamboni Brigades, with a faction led by Ahmed Madobe starting the war against Al Shabaab and a faction led by Hassan “Turki” siding with Al Shabaab.
The battle of Kismayu was decisively won by Al Shabaab, which expelled Madobe’s Ras Kamboni forces from the city.
In the battles that followed, in November 2009, Madobe’s forces were overpowered by Al Shabaab and local allies and forced to withdraw from the Lower Juba region and most of southern Somalia.