Somalia’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke presented his credentials as Somalia’s ambassador to the United States on July 14, 2014. It was the first time in 20 years Somalia has accredited an ambassador to the U.S.


Sharmarke was born June 18, 1960, in Mogadishu, Somalia, although his family is from the country’s Puntland region. His father, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, was Somalia’s prime minister, and then president and was assassinated on October 15, 1969, by his bodyguards in the run-up to a military coup. Sharmarkee’s mother, Ruqia Dahir Ali Boss, was the daughter of a noted Islamic scholar.


Sharmarke went to college first at Somalia’s National University, where he received a B.A. in economics. He also went to Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he earned a B.A. in political science and an M.A. in political economics. Sharmarke holds dual Canadian and Somali citizenship.


Sharmarke’s first professional jobs were for a Somali bank and for Coca-Cola. He later went to work for the non-governmental organization Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives in Canada. Sharmarke went to work for the United Nations in 2000, serving in Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone and the Darfur region of Sudan, where he was a political advisor. He also worked as a foreign policy adviser to former Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, who left office in 2008. Sharmarke was also selected as Somalia’s ambassador to the United States at that time but never took up the post.


In 2009, Sharmarke was chosen to be prime minister by President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed as part of a Western-backed unity government. Sharmarke is from Somalia’s Darod ethnic group, while Sharif was Hawiye; Somalia requires there to be clan/ethnic balance among its government leaders. Sharmarke’s status as part of his country’s diaspora was thought to be a plus in the belief that he would draw support from other overseas Somalis.


Sharmarke’s tenure was rocky and short. After becoming prime minister, he had to deal with numerous attacks by Somali pirates on ships sailing past the Horn of Africa nation, including the famous raid on the Maersk Alabama chronicled in the Captain Phillips movie.


By spring of 2010, the relationship between Sharmarke and Sharif was growing more difficult. There was a vote of no confidence in May of that year, but Sharmarke refused to step down and was eventually allowed to stay on. But in September, disagreements about how to have their country’s draft constitution approved created the final rift between prime minister and president. Sharif wanted a general referendum on the constitution, while Sharmarke thought it should go before Parliament.


Sharmarke is married.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke (Wikipedia)


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