Africa's top peace and security official says Somalia's government and a moderate Islamic group are entering an alliance aimed at ending nearly two decades of war and anarchy.
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government and the moderate al-Sunna Wal Jama'a religious movement have agreed to join forces to crush the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab, which controls large portions of the country. A signing ceremony is set for Saturday with African Union Chairman Jean Ping presiding.
Somalia's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke will represent the government. ASWJ spiritual leader Mahamud Sheikh Hassan will lead a delegation of members of an Islamic consultative council.
A.U. Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra called the alliance a critical step in returning order to the Horn of Africa country, which has been described as the world's most failed state.
"It shows the policy of peace and reconciliation of President Sheikh Sharif is yielding results, because you have a group that is moderate religious, and understanding of the teachings of Islam. It is also led by a well-respected religious scholar in the country, Sheikh Mahamud, and we believe this would have a very important impact politically, culturally and even militarily because you have seen the positions held by al Sunna Wal Jama'a in the central region of Somalia are usually holding in the face of attacks by al-Shabab."
Lamamra said the agreement will further isolate al-Shabab. According to his words, "They are not representing the mainstream political forces or even expressing the mainstream religious interpretation of Islam, which is prevailing in the country, so they clearly identify themselves as a radical group."