Sharif Ahmed was born in Mahaday a town in southern Middle Shabelle region of Somalia. He is a member of the Abgaal clan.
Sharif began his education at the Sheikh Sufi Institute, which was associated with Al-Azhar University in Egypt. He then went to Sudan and entered University of Kordofan in late 1992, where he pursued a bachelor's degree in the Arabic language (major) and geography (minor) in the city of Aldalanj. In 1994, the university was renamed to the Dalanj University, and Sheikh Sharif left for Tripoli, the capital of Libya, after having completed only two out of the required four years. In Libya, he entered the Open University where he earned a bachelor's degree in Law and Islamic Shariah, graduating in 1998. He worked as a secondary school teacher of geography, Arabic, and religious studies.
A hafiz, Ahmed had memorized the Qur'an as a child and spoke only standard Arabic, shunning slang and local dialects. Thus, his religious upbringing and education allowed him to succeed his father as the spiritual leader of the Idriseeyah sect of Sufi Islam in Somalia.
After returning from overseas, Ahmed became involved in the ICU and was elected to head a small local sub-clan court in Jowhar. A few years later, a local gang in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, kidnapped a young student and demanded a ransom from his family in return for the boy's release. Ahmed helped secure the boys release. This incident was one of countless other kidnappings and killings perpetrated by armed groups in the Somali capital who exploited the disintegration of the central government. This event reportedly marked a turning point in the life of Sheikh Ahmed and propelled his further involvement with the ICU.
By 2004, Sheikh Ahmed had become one of the leading figures in the Mogadishu Islamic Courts. His closest friends and allies included Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the founders of the ICU, and Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow", a man whom Washington alleges has connections with the Al-Qaeda network and fought in Afghanistan in 2001.
On 9 September 2006, under the auspices of Abdiqasim Salad Hassan, the former President of the Somali Transitional National Government, Sheikh Ahmed and several colleagues attended an AU ceremony in Sirte, Libya as ICU delegates, marking the seventh anniversary of a summit of African leaders. In an interview with Reuters and the BBC, Sheikh Ahmed suggested his delegation would seek the help of Libya and other African nations to bring about a rapprochement between the Islamic Courts Union and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). However, he reportedly arrived in Khartoum, Sudan 48 hours before the start of the conference between the Somali government and the ICU only to leave 24 hours later. Sheikh Ahmed said Ethiopia had been hostile to Somalia peace for more than 100 years, and reiterated a long-standing Islamist accusation that Ethiopian forces were intervening in Somalia. Ethiopia denied any of its troops were fighting in Somalia. However, arrangements for an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led peacekeeping force did not materialize.
On 28 December 2006, after the defeat of the ICU's army, he committed himself to fight against the occupation forces—the Ethiopian forces and militia from Puntland - in southern Somalia. After the ICU's defeat in the Battle of Jilib and their abandonment of Kismayo, he fled towards the Kenyan border.
Before fleeing, Sharif lived with his wife and two children, Ahmad, aged 9 and Abdullah, who was a toddler, in a modest house in Mogadishu.
He met the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya for talks regarding cooperation with the TFG. He was under the protection of Kenyan authorities, staying at a hotel in Nairobi.
On 1 February 2007, Sharif Ahmed was released from Kenyan police authorities. By 8 February, Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed went to Yemen where other ICU members are thought to had also gone.
As the first round of voting began, several candidates withdrew, increasing the speculation that the vote would largely be a choice between Nur Hassan Hussein and Sharif Ahmed. In the first round, Sharif Ahmed received 215 votes, Maslah Mohamed Siad got 60, and Hussein obtained 59. Hussein then withdrew his candidacy, thus likely sealing the election of Sharif Ahmed as president. In the final round of the presidential election, Sharif prevailed with 293 votes.
After winning the vote in the early hours of 31 January 2009, Ahmed was sworn in later in the day at the Kempinski hotel in Djibouti.
In April and May 2010, a rift developed between Prime Minister of Somalia, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, and then Speaker of Parliament, Adan Mohamed Nuur Madobe, which culminated in the Speaker's resignation after parliament later voted to remove him from office. Despite Madobe agreeing to relieve himself of his duties as Speaker, the President Sharif announced shortly afterwards his dismissal of Prime Minister Sharmarke and his intention of forming a new government. This move was quickly welcomed by the UN Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, a close associate and supporter of Sharif. Ould-Abdallah himself has recently come under fire for his reportedly disruptive role in the continuing conflict in southern Somalia, including meddling in local politics and attempting to advance foreign agendas.
In response, Prime Minister Sharmarke told the press that Sharif did not have the authority to dismiss him, and stated that he would remain in office until parliament passes a vote of no confidence. Sharmarke added that he "met the president and informed him that I wouldn't submit a resignation because his decision is not supported by the transitional charter", and that "the government is formed in accordance with the constitution and the national charter... Articles 44 and 51 of the constitution say that the government can only be dissolved through a vote of no confidence from the parliament. So no parliament has casted the vote against the government."
On 18 May, a top official with the African Union urged the federal leaders to settle their differences and unite to resolve the ongoing conflict. Supporters of Prime Minister Sharmarke were also reported to have gathered in the north-central Mudug region of Somalia to protest in his defense.
On 20 May, President Sharif reversed his decision to sack Prime Minister Sharmarke. The change of heart came after consulting with lawyers, who advised Sharif that the dismissal was indeed unconstitutional. Analysts stated that the move had severely undermined Sharif's credibility, as well as that of the UN representative, Ould-Abdallah, who had backed him.
On 26 May, following another disagreement with Prime Minister Sharmarke, incumbent President Sharif again announced his unilateral plan to appoint a new Premier. Associates of Sharif's also reportedly attempted to persuade Sharmarke to resign, but the Premier again refused to step down and vowed instead to remain in office until his tenure constitutionally expires. Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, the incumbent President of Somalia's autonomous Puntland region in the northeast, attempted to help settle the dispute, warning that if not resolved amicably, the rift could result in the ultimate collapse of the Transitional Federal Government.
In September 2010, disagreements again arose between President Sharif and Prime Minister Sharmarke, this time over the nation's draft constitution, an initiative supported by the United Nations, the European Union and the United States. Sharmarke reportedly wanted the document put before parliament and civil society members, while the president wanted it to be put to a referendum. On 14 September, it was reported that the Premier had convened with MPs and ministers at the presidential residence to discuss the issue, where Sharmarke indicated that he would welcome a resolution to the dispute but would not step down. In a parliamentary meeting the following day, Sharif requested "changes" to the interim government; a motion calling for a vote of no confidence in the Premier was then put forward. However, on 18 September, the new Speaker of the Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan reportedly called off a parliamentary session when the vote of confidence was expected to take place.
In response to the rift, representatives from the United Nations, the African Union and IGAD, who had already tried to serve as mediators, released a joint statement warning that the dispute is unhelpful and self-defeating. Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamud Farole in an interview likewise urged the federal government's leaders to set aside their differences for the sake of the country. Farole added that the "government [TFG] has a short time in office remaining and it should not be changed. This is also the position of countries who are interested in Somali affairs".
Critics have also accused President Sharif of attempting to force Prime Minister Sharmarke out of office so as to remain in power beyond his term's expiry in August 2011. Doing so could terminate the draft constitution, which in turn might extend the president's tenure.
On 21 September 2010, in a press conference attended by members of Parliament and the Cabinet, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke announced his resignation as Prime Minister of Somalia. Sharmarke indicated that the infighting between himself and President Sharif had become a "security vulnerability" and that he had opted instead to "save the nation" by voluntarily stepping down. With Sharmarke's resignation, a new Cabinet is expected to be named by the next Premier.
On 14 October 2010, President Sharif appointed former First Secretary of the Somali embassy in Washington, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, as the new Prime Minister of Somalia. A row between the President and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the Speaker of Parliament, then developed over whether the scheduled vote of confidence on Mohamed's nomination should be decided by a show of hands or a secret ballot. Sharif Ahmed favored hand-raising while Sharif Aden preferred a secret ballot, ultimately postponing the deciding voting session. The Supreme Court of Somalia subsequently ruled that the vote should be conducted by a show of hands, consistent with how previous confirmation votes in parliament had been decided since 1960. A delegation from the UN, AU and IGAD, including the Special Envoy to Somalia, also flew in to attempt to help resolve the impasse. On 31 October 2010, the vote of confidence was held, with lawmakers overwhelmingly approving Mohamed's appointment as Prime Minister. Out of the 392 Members of Parliament, 297 endorsed the selection via hand-raising; 92 MPs voted against and 3 abstained. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also issued a statement commending the Somali leadership for having reached a consensus on procedural arrangements that facilitated a transparent and consultative confirmation of the new Premier.
After months of political infighting between President Sharif Ahmed and the Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan over whether to hold presidential elections in August 2011, the two politicians struck a deal in Kampala on 9 June 2011 to postpone the vote for a new President and parliamentary Speaker for one year in exchange for the resignation of the Premier within a period of thirty days. Overseen by the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and the U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia Augustine Mahiga, the signed Kampala Accord would also see the well-regarded technocratic Cabinet that Prime Minister Mohamed had assembled in November 2010 re-composed to make way for a new government. Political analysts have suggested that the agreement may have been a bid on President Sharif Ahmed's part to fend off attempts by the Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan to force him from power by pre-emptively "sacrificing" the Premier. Sharif Hassan is also reported to harbor presidential ambitions of his own.
Announcement of Prime Minister Mohamed's proposed resignation was immediately met with protests in various cities. Thousands of civilians, many government soldiers, and some legislators marched through the streets of Mogadishu, calling for the dismissal of the President, the Parliament Speaker and the Parliament. The crowd also demanded that the Premier be reinstated and described Mohamed as the "only honest leader in recent years". Posters of the UN Special Envoy were symbolically burned, with protestors appealing to the UN Secretary General to dismiss Mahiga due to what many felt was the latter's infringement on Somalia's sovereignty through his signing of the Kampala agreement. Attacks on hotels in which members of parliament were staying and at least five deaths were also reported. Additional demonstrations against the Premier's resignation were held in Galkacyo, a key trading city in the north-central Mudug region, as well as in Belet Hawo in the far south. Internationally, protests also reportedly took place in Cairo, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Sydney, London, Rome, Stockholm, Minneapolis and Toronto.
In response, Prime Minister Mohamed released a statement through the state-run Radio Mogadishu commending the armed forces for their rapid response and urging its troops to exercise restraint. He also appealed to the public to calm down, and indicated that "I have seen your expressions and heard your calls[...] You are part of the decision making — what you want must be heard." Additionally, in a press conference, the Premier called for the immediate release of all protestors who had been detained, and stated that his administration would launch an independent investigation into their arrest. Weighing in on the demonstrations, Mogadishu's Mayor Mohamed Nur suggested that "what [the demonstrators] have a problem with is that two people go and decide the fate of this government without considering the feelings of this population", and that putting the issue before Parliament for approval is a more democratic course of action.
On 11 June 2011, Prime Minister Mohamed released a statement indicating that the Kampala decision ought to be presented in Parliament for debate and appraised according to the laws stipulated in the national constitution. The Premier also stated that he would only step down if lawmakers voted to uphold the accord. This was echoed by the Cabinet, which indicated in a press release that, after having convened to discuss the Kampala decision, the Ministers agreed that the accord must be put before Parliament for evaluation. In addition, over 200 parliamentarians reportedly sought to urge the Prime Minister to reconvene Parliament so as to deliberate the decision, indicating in a separate statement that the accord deprived MPs of their legislative role vis-a-vis the government.
On 12 June 2011, President Sharif Ahmed released a statement wherein he condemned the protests, describing them as "illegal". He also suggested that some government officials were financing the rallies in Mogadishu, and warned that the Al-Shabaab group of Islamists that is waging war against the federal government could try to exploit the gatherings to launch terrorist attacks.
The same day, news reports surfaced indicating that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon would sack Special Envoy Augustine Mahiga on account of a lack of tangible progress made and public confidence in Mahiga's work in Somalia. UN sources also stated that, due to prevalent allegations of graft, the Secretary General would fire half of the senior staff in various UN bureaus, including the UNPOS, UNDP, UNICEF, WHO and OCHA.
In an interview on 16 June 2011, Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs of Italy, Alfredo Mantica, expressed support for Prime Minister Mohamed's position with regard to the Kampala agreement. Mantica stated that the Italian government believed that the accord ought to be reviewed in Parliament. He also indicated that "the prime minister has been in office five months. And [it is too] early to judge his work. But what he has done so far has been very positive. It has achieved important results. The government already seemed a miracle[...] The strength of the instability in Somalia is a constant. And the prime minister represents stability."
On 19 June 2011, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed resigned from his position as Prime Minister of Somalia. Part of the controversial Kampala Accord's conditions, the agreement would also see the mandates of the President, the Parliament Speaker and Deputies extended until August 2012, after which point new elections are to be organized. In his farewell speech, Prime Minister Mohamed indicated that he was stepping down in "the interest of the Somali people and the current situation in Somalia". He also thanked his Cabinet for its efforts in improving the security situation and the standards of governance in the country.
Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Mohamed's former Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, was appointed as Acting Premier later the same day. A few days later, on 23 June 2011, Ali was named permanent prime minister.
Prime Minister Mohamed's resignation was immediately met with anger by the general public and many lawmakers. Apprehension regarding a possible resurgence of governmental corruption and lassitude, long-standing problems which Mohamed's administration had made significant strides toward eradicating, were cited as primary reasons for the consternation. According to one legislator, many policy-makers are trying to repeal the Kampala decision, as it also "subject[s] the country to trusteeship". Another MP indicated that "lawmakers are united in their opposition to the deal" and "will object [to] it until we throw it away".
Observers have suggested that Mohamed's resignation could offer militants an opportunity to capitalize on the situation and set back the territorial gains made by his administration in the ongoing insurgency in southern Somalia. They have also opined that firing the Premier would not resolve the long-standing power struggle between President Sharif Ahmed and Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan, but may inadvertently exacerbate and prolong it. Additionally, political analysts have suggested that the Kampala agreement presents other potential long-term issues, such as facilitating intervention and meddling by neighboring countries, with the Ugandan government's role as the final arbiter, in particular, cited as problematic.
Responding to the Kampala decision, the Al-Shabaab insurgent group's head of policy and regions, Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, told reporters on 22 June 2011 that the accord ended in failure since it was "an example [of how] the country is managed by Uganda" and that "it is clear for the Somali people and the international community that [the] Kampala meeting [on] Somalia was aimed to coerce the Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to step down". In addition, the spokesman suggested that Somalia's citizenry was aware of what was going on and that it did not recognize President Sharif Ahmed and the Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan as legitimate governmental authorities. He also reiterated his group's call for Ugandan troops to withdraw from the country.
On 24 June 2011, lawmakers reaffirmed their opposition to and intention of repealing the Kampala decision. The Chairman of the federal Information, Public Awareness, Culture and Heritage Committee, Awad Ahmed Ashareh, indicated that 165 legislators had tendered a motion in Parliament opposing the agreement, but the Speaker rebuffed it. Ashareh also stated that MPs would issue a vote of no confidence vis-a-vis the Speaker Hassan if he continued to refuse to permit debate to take place, suggesting that Hassan's refusal "contravenes the Charter and rules of procedure".
Following talks with parliamentarians, President Sharif Ahmed asserted on 28 June 2011 that, on account of opposition amongst legislators to the Kampala decision, the accord would be brought before Parliament for deliberation. He also indicated that the agreement would not be implemented unless approved by lawmakers.
In October 2011, a coordinated operation between the Somalian military and the Kenyan military referred to as Linda Nchi began, with Kenyan troops crossing the border into southern Somalia in pursuit of Al-Shabaab militants that are alleged to have kidnapped several foreign tourists and workers inside Kenya. President Sharif along with Prime Minister Ali initially opposed the deployment of Kenyan troops into the country, as they felt it was a breach of an earlier joint defence pact reached with the Kenyan government that limited Kenya's supporting role to logistical activities. On 31 October, a Somalian delegation met in Nairobi with the Kenyan Premier Raila Odinga and other government officials to iron out differences and to outline a joint strategy vis-a-vis Operation Linda Nchi. After lengthy talks, the delegations issued a joint communique pledging coordinated military, political and diplomatic support for the mission, requesting that AMISOM peacekeepers police areas captured from Al-Shabaab, and that the International Criminal Court (ICC) begin formal investigations against the group's commanders. The two delegations also formed a joint "high-level co-ordinating committee" to maintain regular contacts between their respective governments.
In early June 2012, Kenyan forces were formally integrated into AMISOM. Analysts expect the additional AU troop reinforcements to help the Somali authorities gradually expand their territorial control.
In February 2012, Sharif Ahmed and other Somali government officials met in the northeastern town of Garowe to discuss post-transition political arrangements. After extensive deliberations attended by regional actors and international observers, the conference ended in a signed agreement between the President, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Speaker of Parliament Sharif Adan Sharif Hassan, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, Galmudug President Mohamed Ahmed Alim and Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a representative Khalif Abdulkadir Noor stipulating that: a) a new 225 member bicameral parliament would be formed, with a lower house and an upper house seating 54 senators; b) 30% of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) is earmarked for women; c) the President is to be appointed via a constitutional election; and d) the Prime Minister is selected by the President and he/she then names his/her Cabinet. On 23 June 2012, the Somali federal and regional leaders met again and approved a draft constitution after several days of deliberation. The National Constituent Assembly overwhelmingly passed the new constitution on 1 August, with 96% voting for it, 2% against it, and 2% abstaining.
On 28 June 2012, President Sharif Ahmed signed a cooperation deal in Dubai with Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, President of the separatist Somaliland region in northwestern Somalia. Referred to as the Dubai Charter, the agreement calls for greater coordination between Somalia's various political units and is part of broader international reconciliation efforts among all Somali parties. The presidents of the autonomous Puntland and Galmudug regions as well as the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs also attended the signing.
In August 2012, Sharif Ahmed presented himself as a candidate for re-election in the year's national presidential elections. On 20 August, Ahmed's term as President of Somalia officially ended, concurrent with the conclusion of the Transitional Federal Government's mandate and the start of the Federal Government of Somalia. He was succeeded in office by General Muse Hassan Sheikh Sayid Abdulle, who had been serving in an interim capacity.
Sharif Ahmed was among the top four presidential candidates who made it to the second round of voting. Two of the four finalists subsequently dropped out, leaving Sharif Ahmed to contest the presidency with the eventual winner, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.