Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the previous leader of Somalia, was chosen president on Sunday after obtaining 214 support from legislators in an exclusive poll. Many people, however, are hoping that the election would end a political climate that has lasted more than a year since President Mohamed Abudallahi‘s term expired in February 2021 without a vote.
Mohamud, a 66-year-old former university professor, and relief worker was inaugurated as president on Monday. He previously served from 2012 to 2017. After more than a year of deadlock in which Abudallahi—also known as Farmaajo—held onto power, he promised to bring the nation forward.
“We must go forward; grudges are unnecessary.” “There will be no vengeance,” Mohamud stated in his acceptance address, as cheers and warning shots erupted in Mogadishu’s capital. The New York Times reported the next day that President Joe Biden was preparing to revoke Trump’s army departure from Somalia. The deployment of over 500 US troops is aimed at assisting in the fight against al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgent organization Al-Shabab, which holds huge parts of southern and central Somalia and is considered a danger to US security by the Pentagon.
Mohamud takes office in the midst of Somalia’s most severe famine in four decades, surging prices, and rising terrorist violence. The following are the implications of the electoral results on the country.
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Somalia’s Violent Election Phase
Somalia’s presidential election was held against all odds on Sunday. Legislators make their decision in a secured aircraft hangar monitored by African Union forces to defend themselves from Al-Shabab threats.
The bulk of the 15 million people in the East African nation are excluded from polls, which have been wracked by bloodshed for years. Parliamentarians choose presidential candidates, who are selected by representatives appointed by influential clan leaders. The system is susceptible to manipulation by opposing factions and lacks democratic oversight, making it especially challenging for young people and women to advance in politics.
Farmaajo announced a highly criticized campaign to prolong his five-year tenure by some other two years in April 2021, sparking political turmoil and violent clashes that brought the country to a halt. Farmaajo increased his hold on power and concentrated the administration under his control during his reign.
Farmaajo ran as Mohamud’s chief rival in this race and earned 110 votes, barely over the fraction of what Mohamud earned. Three legislators are said to have spoilt their ballots. Former foreign minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam, the only female candidate in the contest, was dismissed in the first round of voting.
On Sunday, there were explosives from outside the voting booth, but no one was injured, according to authorities. The presidential race in Somalia was just the third in the country’s history, with prior elections taking place in neighboring Kenya and Djibouti.
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A Former President’s Rise To Power
Mohamud, who was re-elected five years after his first term, is the first Somali president to win reelection. His candidacy promised not to repeat the same mistakes of his predecessor, who was dogged by corruption allegations and infighting. Mohamud is the leader of the socially conservative Union for Peace and Development party, which has a majority in both legislative houses and is a representative of one of Somalia’s biggest tribes, the Hawiye.
As per Omar Mahmood, senior Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Mohamud’s capacity to unify different political groups will be critical to his survival as president. The new leader’s reconciliatory attitude to politics, as evidenced by his rhetoric following his inauguration on Monday, differs from Farmaajo’s. “He’s said the correct things, and he has a personality that favors consultation,” Mahmood adds, “so let’s see how it plays out in practice.”
While Trump transferred 700 troops out of Somalia as part of his commitment to “stop another Forever War,” according to analyst Mahmood, they were stationed in neighboring Kenya and Djibouti before being cycled back into Somalia. According to Mahmood, Biden’s choice is “basically simply repositioning them again.”
According to Mahmood, the action may still be quite enough to exert some pressure on al-Shabab, which it hasn’t felt since the US left. But, as Mahmood reminds us, al-Shabab has prospered in the past despite a major US military involvement and an air attack program, and Somali civilians have been killed in the crossfire.
What Could Happen Now?
Drought and rising food costs have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine—Somalia buys 90 percent of its wheat from both Ukraine and Russia, as per the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. As the government attempts to rescue its agricultural economy and send important food and medical supplies to those impacted by the famine, President Mohamud’s reconciliatory agenda is critical to the economic well-being of his citizens.
When it comes to international support for Somalia, Mahmood believes the international community should concentrate on the country’s political unrest, which al-Shabab takes advantage of. “Al-Shabab is a reflection of Somalia’s political instability,” he claims. “It will stay a very relevant actor as long as the authorities are divided and there are problems on the bottom.”
Especially in the absence of direct parliamentary power, al-Shabab continues to rule in broad areas of the nation, “providing services that are more competitive than the federal government,” as per Mahmood.
He claims that simply labeling them as terrorists and restricting them to military intervention is insufficient. “There should be some form of the political path, as well as some sort of outreach from the United States.”