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Profiles of nine noteworthy African politicians in the news: Newly inaugurated President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, President Michael Sata of Zambia, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkino Faso, Prime Minister of Somali, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Re-elected President Paul Kagame of Rwanda; Al-Bashir, President of Sudan; Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, President of Nigeria; Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa; Sharif Ahmed, President of Somalia.

John Pombe Magufuli – Tanzania President

Tanzania President Magufuli’s middle name, Pombe, in Kiswahili means alcohol, and at one of his election rallies the President said if people found Pombe a little difficult, “they could simply call me Wine”.
The son of a peasant farmer, John Pombe Magufuli won the election to become Tanzania's president on his 56th birthday, a perfect gift for him.

  • The 56-year-old is a former school teacher, industrial chemist and outgoing works minister
  • Nicknamed "The Bulldozer"
  • A devout Catholic with a corruption-free reputation
  • CCM loyalist since 1977, elected MP in 1995
  • Performed push-ups on the campaign trail to prove he was fit
  • Pledged to end power shortages and exploit Tanzania's natural gas discoveries

Married with five children, Mr. Magufuli was born in north-western Tanzania's Chato district along the shores of Lake Victoria.
Once a math and chemistry teacher, he went on to become an industrial chemist - and was awarded a doctorate in chemistry from Dar es Salaam University in 2009.
Mr. Magufuli is a staunch Catholic who loves singing in the church choir and playing traditional drums.
His supporters say he upholds traditional family values, and campaigned for the presidency on a platform of hard work.
"He was for many years minister for works, supervising execution of mega projects worth trillions of shillings, but was never implicated in any corruption scandal, he could have been the richest politician in the country" said Joseph Warioba, a former Prime Minster and veteran CCM politician.
Some analysts say Mr. Magufuli is more popular than the party, which has effectively been in power since independence in 1961, and he will have to purge it of corrupt officials or risk losing credibility.


John Dramani Mahama, President of Ghana

John Dramani Mahama, was born at Bole Bamboi in the Northern Region on the 29th November, 1958. He is married to Mrs. Lordina Mahama and has seven children.

Mr. Mahama started his primary education at the Achimota Primary School and went on to secondary school at the Ghana Secondary School in Tamale in the Northern Region. He proceeded thereafter to the University of Ghana, Legon, where he obtained a BA Degree in History in 1981.

In 1986, he obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon. He also undertook further Postgraduate Studies in Social Psychology at the Institute of Social Sciences in Moscow Russia in 1988.

Mr. Mahama was employed as an Information Officer at the Embassy of Japan in the Republic of Ghana from 1991 to 1995. He moved on to join the non-governmental organization, Plan International, as Sponsorship and Grants Manager in the Ghana Country Office from 1995 to 1996.

He was elected to his first term as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bole-Bamboi Constituency in the Northern Region on the ticket of the NDC in December 1996. Mr. Mahama served as Deputy Minister of Communications from April 1997 to November 1998 and then served as the substantive Minister of Communications from November 1998 to January 2001.

Mr. Mahama was re-elected MP for Bole-Bamboi Constituency in December 2000 and in December 2004. He served as Director of Communication for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as well as Spokesman on Communications for the Minority in Parliament between 2001 and 2004.

From 2005 to 2009 Mr. Mahama served as the Minority Parliamentary Spokesman for Foreign Affairs. He has been a Member of the Pan African Parliament based in Pretoria, South Africa from 2004 to date where he served as the Chairman of the West Africa Caucus.

January 2009, Hon. John Dramani Mahama was sworn into office as the Vice-President of the Republic of Ghana and upon the untimely July 2012 passing of President John Atta Mills, Mr. Mahama was sworn in as the new President of Ghana to serve out President Mills’ term in office.

Michael Chilufya Sata, President of Zambia

Michael Chilufya Sata, the new President of Zambia, elected during the 2011 clear and clean presidential elections, was born 1937 in Mpika, Zambia.

Neither age nor ill-health seemed to have dampen the fire of this Zambian leader Michael Sata during his winning electioneering year, even after losing presidential elections in 2001, 2006 and 2008.

Michael Sata was born in Mpika, Zambia (then a British protectorate under the colonial name of Northern Rhodesia). He is the son of Sata Langford Mubanga and Bukali Kabuswe from the Bisa tribe in the rural district of Northern Province. Sata is a family man and devout catholic who attends the vernacular mass at his local parish Saint Ignatius in Lusaka every Sunday. As one of his subtle principles Sata does not drink bottled water giving his reason that he will not do so “until all Zambians have equal access to clean water.”

Sata trained and served as a police officer during the Northern Rhodesia colonial administration and was the most senior African officer in the police establishment. He also trained as a pilot in Russia. After leaving formal employment he ventured into business development providing services to investors in property development and other business undertakings. He was involved in developing one of the country’s biggest housing projects in Avondale, Lusaka.

He became a political activist and a trade unionist during Zambia’s struggle for independence on the Copperbelt Province. This period marked the beginning of Sata’s career in Zambian politics which was during his youth.

Sata’s political career spans over a period of 30 years having served first as a councilor and later executive Governor in the Lusaka City Council from 1981 to 1988. His helm at Lusaka City Council provided leadership which spurred innovative developments including landmark infrastructure and social services.

Mr Sata first went to Parliament when President Kenneth Kaunda nominated him to the House and appointed him as Minister of State for Decentralisation, in 1989. He left the House upon his dismissal from his ministerial post in 1991.

He then stood as a candidate of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in Kabwata Constituency in the 31 October, 1991 election, and won the seat. In 1996 he decided to stand as MP for his home district, Mpika in the Northern Province of Zambia. He won that seat.

He vacated that parliamentary seat when the parliamentary term came to an end in 2001 and he resigned from the MMD party to form his Patriotic Front party, having served a total of about 13 years as member of parliament, 10 of those as a directly-elected member for the MMD party.

He did not seek re-election to parliament in 2001, instead opting to contest the presidency against the MMD candidate and former Vice-President (1991 - 1994), Levy Mwanawasa. Mr Sata lost that election (2001) and the subsequent in 2006. He also lost the presidential by-election of 2008, occasioned by Mr Mwanawasa's sudden demise.

Mr. Sata then won the Presidency in the 2011 presidential election.

Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso

Blaise Compaoré (born February 3, 1951in Ziniaré, Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso) has been the President of Burkina Faso since October 1987 following a coup d'état that ousted then President Thomas Sankara. Most recently, a mutiny (2011) by soldiers over unpaid housing allowances forced him to flee the capital, Ouagadougou, for his hometown. Following the mutiny, Compaoré has dissolved the government so as to gratify the protestors' and soldiers' desires and demands.

He is a graduate of Muammar al-Gaddafi's World Revolutionary Center (WRC), and since there, a close friend and supporter of Col. Gaddafi. Compaoré introduced Charles Taylor of the Sierra Leon and Liberia conflicts to Muammar al-Gaddafi during the start of Taylor’s rule.

Compaoré is a practicing Roman Catholic, founder of the Burkina Faso’s ruling political party, the Congress for Democracy and Progress. He took power in a 1987 coup in which his predecessor Thomas Sankara was killed. He was elected President in 1991, in an election that was boycotted by the opposition, and re-elected in 1998, 2005 and most recently in 2010.

1983 Cup

A coup d'état organized by Compaoré, deposed Major Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo on August 4, 1983. The coup d'état was supported by Libya which was, at the time, on the verge of war with France in Chad. Other key participants in the coup were Captain Henri Zongo, Major Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani and the charismatic Captain Thomas Sankara—who was pronounced President.

1987 Coup

Compaoré took power on 15 October, 1987 in a coup that killed President Thomas Sankara, his predecessor as head of state. Compaoré described the killing of Sankara as an "accident", but the circumstances have never been properly investigated. Upon taking the presidency, he reverted many of the policies of Sankara, claiming that his policy was a "rectification" of the Burkinabé revolution.

Initially ruling in a triumvirate with Henri Zongo and Jean-Baptiste Boukary Lingani, in September 1989 these two were arrested, charged with plotting to overthrow the government, summarily tried, and executed.

1991 and 1998 Elections

Compaoré was elected president in 1991 in an election boycotted by the main opposition parties boycotted in protest at the questionable means Compaoré had used to take office in the first place, Only 25% of the electorate voted. In 1998 he was re-elected for the first time. In August 2005, he announced his intention to contest the next presidential election. Opposition politicians regarded this as unconstitutional due to a constitutional amendment in 2000 limiting a president to two terms, and reducing term lengths from seven to five years. Compaoré's supporters disputed this, saying that the amendment could not be applied retroactively, and in October 2005 the constitutional council ruled that because Compaoré was a sitting president in 2000, the amendment would not apply until the end of his second term in office, thereby allowing him to present his candidacy for the 2005 election.

2005 Election

On November 13, 2005, Compaoré was re-elected as President, defeating 12 opponents and winning 80.35% of the vote. Although 16 opposition parties announced a coalition to unseat Compaoré early on in the race, ultimately nobody wanted to give up their spot in the race to another leader in the coalition, and the pact fell through. Following Compaoré's victory, he was sworn in for another term on December 20, 2005.

2011 Mutiny

On 14 April 2011, Compaoré was reported to have fled from the capital Ouagadougou to his hometown of Ziniare after mutineering military bodyguards began a revolt in their barracks reportedly over unpaid allowances. Their actions eventually spread to the presidential compound and other army bases. In the night gunfire was reported at the presidential compound and an ambulance was seen leaving the compound. In response to the mutiny Compaoré sacked his government and appointed a new army chief. He named himself Defense Minister on 22 April in an attempt to bring the army to heel.

On April 22, 2011 a broad coalition of opposition groups called for a rally on 30 April to demand Compaoré step down.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, Somalia PM

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, (Somali: Maxamed Cabdulaahi Maxamed), was born in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1962 to a Marehan Darod family. Nicknamed "Farmajo", he hails from the Gedo region in the south. Mohamed holds both Somali and American citizenship. He is married to Zeinab Moallim, with whom he has four children: two sons and two daughters aged 7 to 19.

Educated in the United States. He completed a Bachelor's Degree in history from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Buffalo, New York - followed in 2009 with a Master's Degree in Political Science (American Studies) from SUNY Buffalo. His dissertation was titled: "U.S. Strategic Interest in Somalia: From the Cold War Era to the War on Terror."

Mohamed worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somalia before the collapse of the federal government in 1991 and the ensuing civil war. Between 1985 and 1988, he acted as First Secretary in the Somali embassy in Washington and worked with various human rights organizations.

From 1994 to 1997, back in the U.S., Mohamed was chosen as an at-large Commissioner for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, as the finance chairman. He also served as case manager for a lead abatement program in the city from 1995 to 1999. Between 2000 and 2002, Mohamed was a minority business coordinator for the Erie County Division of Equal Employment Opportunity. From 2002 until his appointment as Prime Minister, he worked as Commissioner for Equal Employment at the New York State Department of Transportation in Buffalo. Mohamed was sworn into office November 1, 2010.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda

Paul Kagame, re-elected President of Rwanda, was born 1957 into a Tutsi family that fled (1960) ethnic violence in Rwa nda. Raised in Uganda, he became a member of Yoweri Museveni 's National Resistance Army, was active in the guerrilla war (1980-86) that brought Museveni to power in Uganda, and served (1986-1990) in the Ugandan army.

Kagame was one of a group of Rwandan army officers serving in the Ugandan army who formed (1990) the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to wage a guerrilla campaign against the then-government of Juvenal Habyarimana.

After President Habyarimana's air-crash death (1994) and the bloody anti-Tutsi violence and chaos that ensued his rebel army stopped the slaughter. A new government was sworn in July 1994 with Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, as President and Kagame as Vice-President and Defense Minister.

In 2000, the National Assembly unanimously chose Kagame as President, making him the first to come from the minority Tutsis since independence from Belgium in 1962.

Kagame has faced foreign criticism for his involvement in the war in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1996 and 1997, Rwanda backed a rebellion that overthrew President Mobutu Seso Seko's regime. Two years later, it became embroiled in a new war that involved at least six countries.

Kagame's government has overseen impressive economic development and rebuilding effort since the genocide. Rwanda’s GDP has doubled since 2005. Most Rwandans having access to free education, medical insurance and the country has "a 100% food security", Kagame says.

There have been massive developments in the information technology sector and in exploring renewable energy. Kagame insists that his government has been successful in curbing corruption and strengthening government institutions. In this regard, Rwanda has been rated as the most transparent among east African countries, according to Transparency International, and named the world's top reformer in the World Bank's Doing Business Report 2010.

Kagame’s government has been exceptionally successful in improving the status of women and enhancing their political participation. The Rwandan government has the highest share of women in senior positions, than any other government in the world.

Kagame, a soldier, politician, tennis player and avid reader is married with four children.

Al-Bashir, President of Sudan

Al-Bashir was born into a peasant family in 1944 in northern Sudan – which until independence in 1955 was part of the Kingdom of Egypt and Sudan. He enrolled in a military academy in Egypt in 1960 and graduated from another military academy in Khartoum in 1966.

He rose through the ranks quickly. He was part of the Sudanese units sent to back Egypt in the last Arab-Israeli war in 1973. 

In 1975, he was appointed as the military attaché in the United Arab Emirates. Upon returning to Sudan, he was appointed garrison commander and in 1981, he became the head of an armored parachute brigade.

As a colonel in the Sudanese military, Bashir was well positioned to lead a bloodless military coup against Sadiq al-Mahdi, the then prime minister, on June 30, 1989.

Al-Bashir was appointed Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Centre for National Salvation (RCC), which was established as a "transitional" government.

After allying with Hassan al-Turabi, the Speaker of the Sudanese Parliament and head of the National Islamic Front, al-Bashir began instituting Sharia (Islamic Law) and abolished political parties in 1990.

The mainly animist and Christians southern Sudan, rejected Sharia law and the decades-long north-south civil war intensified.

Political Conflict

In 1993, al-Bashir abolished the RCC and appointed himself President of Sudan.

Sudan held elections in March 1996 for a President and a new National Assembly. Al-Bashir was elected President - with no opposing candidates or parties - with 75 per cent of the votes.

In 1999, he legalized the registration of political parties. Later that year, al-Bashir ousted al-Turabi, who had grown increasingly close to Islamist groups unpopular in the West, from his post as Parliament Speaker and had him imprisoned.

In 2000, al-Bashir was re-elected after winning 90 per cent of a popular vote in an election described as a sham by the opposition.

A Wanted Man

In 2003, several ethnic groups in Darfur launched a rebellion against the Sudanese government and allegedly state-backed Arab militias known as the Janjawid.

The rebels - the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – accused the government of oppressing black Africans and favoring Arabs in an impoverished region historically prone to tensions between the two communities over water and grazing rights. The UN and human rights groups say Khartoum is using the Janjawid, as a proxy force to crush the revolt. Khartoum denies the claims.

In 2004, the US, which is not a signatory to the ICC, referred to the Darfur conflict as genocide.

Sudan's foreign ministry acknowledged some human rights violations had occurred in the troubled western Darfur region but denied that these were part of systematic ethnic cleansing or genocide.

The United Nations Security Council referred the Darfur case to the ICC in 2005, giving them the mandate to investigate the claims.

In July 2008, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the ICC prosecutor, asked for an arrest warrant to be issued for al-Bashir, accusing him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The warrant was issued on March 4, 2009.

Sudan says the ICC has little power to enforce his arrest warrant, but suspects can be arrested in any country that is a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the court in 1998.

Defiant al-Bashir made his first trip outside Sudan 19 days after the arrest warrant. He visited Eritrea on March 23, 2009. 

Al-Bashir responded to the arrest warrant by accusing the UN of being a puppet at the hands of western powers. He kicked UN aid agencies outside the country and charged the UN with collaborating with the US and western powers.

His Excellency Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Ph.D.

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is a current acting President of Nigeria. He was Governor of Bayelsa State from 9 December 2005 to 28 May 2007, and was sworn in as Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on 29 May 2007. Jonathan is a member of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). On 13 January 2010, a federal court handed him the power to carry out state affairs while President Umaru Yar'Adua received medical treatment in a Saudi Arabian hospital. A motion from the Nigerian Senate on 9 February 2010 confirmed these powers to act as President.

A native of Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was born November 20, 1957, to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Ebele Jonathan. Goodluck started his primary education at St. Stephen Primary School (now State School Otuoke) and later proceeded to St Michael Primary School Oloibiri where he passed his First School Leaving Certificate honorably. In 1971 he furthered his studies at Mater Dei High School and by 1975 he sat for the West African School Certificate.

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan holds a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) Honors, University of Port Harcourt, Master of Science (M.Sc.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from University of Port Harcourt respectively. He is seasoned administrator, an academic, a democrat, and an accomplished technocrat.

Dr. Jonathan holds an Honorary Fellowship of the Nigeria Environmental Society (NES), Fellow of the Public Administrators of Nigeria (PAN), Fellow of the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA), Bona Fide Member Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON). awarded "Best Performing Deputy Governor", and conferred "Exemplary Leadership Quality and Good Governance Award". And recently, he was given an Honorary Award for Democracy and Good Governance.

In 1993 Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was appointed as an Assistant Director in the defunct Oil Mineral Producing Areas Development Commission (OMPADEC). He was deployed to the Directorate of Environmental Protection and Pollution Control where he was directing the affairs of the Environmental Protection Sub-Department.

Dr. Jonathan, previously the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, replaced Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was impeached by the Bayelsa State Assembly after being charged with money laundering in the United Kingdom. In September 2006, Jonathan's wife was indicted by the nation's anti-crime agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), for money laundering related offences.

In December 2006, Jonathan was selected as running mate to Umaru Yar'Adua for the ruling PDP presidential ticket in the April 2007 election. On 20 April 2007, shortly before the presidential election, a militant attack that was described by police as an assassination attempt against Jonathan occurred in Bayelsa State.

Following the PDP's disputed electoral victory, militants blew up Jonathan's country house in Otu-Eke, Bayelsa State on 16 May; two policemen were killed in the attack. Jonathan was not present at the time.

After taking office, Yar'Adua publicly declared his assets, and on 8 August 2007, Jonathan did so. According to Jonathan, as of 30 May 2007 he had a total of 295,304,420 naira ($8,569,662 USD) in assets

Dr. Jonathan is a member of various professional bodies, including the Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), he is a Fellow of the International Association of Impact Assessment (IAIA), a Fellow of the Public Administrators of Nigeria (PAN), and he was awarded the prestigious Honorary Fellowship of the Nigerian Environmental Society, following his contributions towards Environmental Management.

Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, President of South Africa

Jacob Zuma was born on 12 April 1942 in Inkandla, KwaZulu-Natal Province.

His father died at the end of World War II, after which his mother took up employment as a domestic worker in Durban. He spent his childhood moving between Zululand and the suburbs of Durban, and by age 15 took on odd jobs to supplement his mother's income.

Owing to his deprived childhood, Jacob Zuma did not receive any formal schooling. Heavily influenced by a trade unionist family member, he became involved in politics at an early age and joined the African National Congress in 1959. He became an active member of Umkhonto We Sizwe in 1962, following the banning of the ANC in 1960.

While on his way out of the country in 1963, he was arrested with a group of 45 recruits near Zeerust in what was then the western Transvaal (now the Northern West Province). Convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government, he was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment, which he served on Robben Island.

After his release, Jacob Zuma helped mobilise internal resistance and was instrumental in the re-establishment of ANC underground structures in the then Natal province, (KwaZulu-Natal) between 1973 and 1975.

He left South Africa in 1975 and for the next 12 years, based first in Swaziland and then Mozambique, dealt with thousands of young exiles who poured out of South Africa in the wake of the Soweto uprising.

He lived in several African countries working for the ANC, where he rose rapidly through the ranks to become a member of the ANC National Executive Committee in 1977. He also served as Deputy Chief Representative of the ANC in Mozambique, a post he occupied until the signing of the Nkomati Accord between the Mozambican and South African governments in 1984. After signing the Accord, he was appointed as Chief Representative of the ANC and was one of a few who remained in Mozambique to carry out the work of the organisation, crossing in and out of South Africa on a number of occasions.

Jacob Zuma was forced to leave Mozambique in January 1987 after considerable pressure on the Mozambican government by the PW Botha regime. He moved to the ANC Head Office in Lusaka, Zambia, where he was appointed Head of Underground Structures and shortly thereafter Chief of the Intelligence Department.

He served on the ANC's political and military council when it was formed in the mid-80s.

Following the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990, he was one of the first ANC leaders to return to South Africa to begin the process of negotiations, and was instrumental in organising the Groote Schuur Minute between the FW de Klerk regime and the ANC that reached important decisions about the return of exiles and the release of political prisoners.

In 1990, at the first Regional Congress of the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), he was elected Chairperson of the Southern Natal region and took a leading role in fighting violence in the region. This resulted in a number of Peace Accords involving the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP)

In 1991, at the first ANC National Conference held in South Africa after the unbanning of the organisation, he was elected the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC.

In January 1994, he was nominated as the ANC candidate for the Premiership of the KZN province. He is generally regarded as the person most instrumental in achieving the peace that is now enjoyed by the people of KZN and in October 1998 he was honoured with the Nelson Mandela Award for Outstanding Leadership in Washington DC, USA.

After the first national democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, Jacob Zuma was appointed as Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) of Economic Affairs and Tourism for the KZN provincial government.

He is also a patron of the KZN Reconstruction and Development Project (RDP) Bursary Fund, which is linked to the RDP section of the Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism. He established this bursary fund, using funds that each cabinet member of the KZN province was given to use on any project of their choice. Owing to his rural background and empathy for the poorest of the poor, he decided to use his allocation to help educate poor people in rural areas by establishing the bursary fund. The fund focuses mainly on primary school children in the rural areas but has, from 1999, started assisting students at tertiary institutions. There is currently in excess of 1,000 pupils being assisted at primary level and 10 at tertiary institutions.

In December 1994, Jacob Zuma was elected National Chairperson of the ANC and chairperson of the ANC in KZN. He was re-elected to the latter position in 1996.

He was elected ANC Deputy President in December 1997.  He served as Deputy President of South Africa from 1999 to 2005.  He was elected ANC President in December 2007. And elected President of South Africa in 2009.



Sharif Ahmed:
Newly Elected President of Somalia


Sharif Ahmed, 44, was the leader of Somalia's ousted Islamic Courts Union, which waged a bitter war against the country's weak transitional government.

In late 2006, he was forced to flee the country amid an Ethiopian invasion supporting the government. Ahmed currently chairs a group of opposition leaders called the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and is an influential religious leader in the country.

Considered a "moderate" Muslim, he was born in the Mahaday district, about 100km north of Mogadishu in 1964. After attending Islamic schools in Somalia, he went on to study in Sudan and Libya during the 1990s before becoming a geography teacher in a Mogadishu secondary school.

He has said it was the kidnapping of a young student for ransom that drove him to set up an Islamic sharia court to rid the capital of banditry.  He has led the Islamic Courts since July 2004. The organization drew together more than a dozen sharia tribunals set up in the 1990s to restore a degree of law and order to the capital Mogadishu.

Islamic Courts Rule

By the summer of 2006, the Islamic courts had managed to unify Mogadishu, and under Ahmed's leadership, the Islamic Courts and the allied al-Shabab armed group gained control of most of southern Somalia.

In its six months of rule, the movement was credited with bringing peace and stability to the region for the first time in 15 years, but was also criticized for strict religious practices.

Seeing the movement as a threat to both itself and the UN-backed transitional Somali government, Ethiopia entered its Horn of Africa neighbor in December 2006, forcing out the Islamic Courts.

Ahmed surrendered to Kenyan authorities on the border in January 2007, although he was released days later.  He returned to Somalia last November under UN-sponsored peace agreements with the transitional government signed in Djibouti in July and October 2008.

Presidential Bid

Under those deals, Ethiopian forces have pulled out of the country - a situation  Ahmed has claimed credit for.

Seats in the Somali parliament were also doubled to 550 in order to accommodate 200 members of Ahmed's group, as well as 75 other opposition figures.

Ahmed was banking on that, and support from his numerically-strong Abgal clan of northern Mogadishu to win him the presidency, which he did in a run-off parliamentary poll in January 31. "My first priority is to bring peace to Somalia and I will serve the nation to the best of my ability," he has said of himself.

Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, former speaker of the Somali parliament, backed his candidacy, saying Ahmed "is one of the most prominent figures in Somalia.  Sheikh Sharif is the best choice to overcome the current crisis."


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