Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was appointed the prime minister of Somalia on February 13, 2009, just two weeks after Somalia’s president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was elected. Sharmarke is the son of a former Somali president.
Sharmarke’s father, Abdirashid Ali, was Somalia’s second president since independence. He was assassinated in 1969, an event that introduced a 20-year-long military dictatorship.
Before his appointment, Sharmarke was not known in the political circles of Somalia. Born in 1960, Sharmarke left Somalia to study political science and economy in at Canada’s Carlton University. He’s a dual Somali and Canadian citizen.
Along with the president, Sharmarke was considered part of a new political generation. Before becoming prime minister, he has worked for the United Nations and other international NGOs in different capacities, mostly in Africa.
Just days after he was appointed as a prime minister, Sharmarke formed a broad-based council of ministers, the country’s most powerful body. With so much momentum in favour of his government, the Somali parliament quickly endorsed the council of ministers.
But Sharmarke’s government faced major obstacles as it relocated from neighbouring Djibouti, where it was formed, to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Fighters belonging to al-Shabab have waged a deadly war against Sharmarke’s government.
By the middle of 2009, his government was cornered by al-Shabab, and by the end of the year, several cabinet ministers were killed in various suicide attacks claimed by al-Shabab.
Corruption also became pandemic throughout Somalia’s weak government institutions, Sharmarke’s cabinet among them. A number of international reports accused the Somali government of being one of the most corrupt in the world.
With his government on the brink under the relentless al-Shabab attacks, and corruption soaring, a rift developed between Sharmarke and president Sharif Ahmed. The president tried, but failed to oust Sharmarke.
It was a turning point in the relations between the two men. The feud widened in scope, with Sharmarke pushing through a draft constitution, and the president opposing it. The feud over the constitution became a flashpoint, but the rift morphed into power struggle between the country’s highest officials.
After months of infighting and political wrangling, Sharmarke stepped down as Somalia’s prime minister on Tuesday September 21, 2010. He cited irreconcilable difference with president Sharif Ahmed.