Monday, September 10, 2012

Somalia Elects a New President

Somalia Elects a New President
By Faisal A. Roble

On September 10, 2012, Somalia’s newly seated law makers elected a new president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud. President-elect Mohamud was the dark horse of this election where he was largely unknown until a week ago when he declared his candidacy. Up until today, Somalia had not democratically elected a president for more than 45 years of its 52 years of existence.

President-elect Mohamud, an academic and a former employee of UNICEF, won in a run-off land slide victory, beating the formidable incumbent president Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed. In the second round, the final vote count was 190 for president-elect Sheik Mohamud vs. 79 for the defeated Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

In the opinion of many Somalis, the result speaks of a mandate extended to the president-elect and a determination that Somalis want to move ahead with a new vision, divorcing themselves from the gridlock and accusation of corruption that has captivated previous administrations.

With a new and qualitatively superior parliament that has elected a well-received speaker on August 20, 2012, president-elect Mohamud is poised to harness huge enthusiasm and positive reception so far expressed by Somalis of all shades.

Following the final count, the outgoing president made a rare but well-received concession speech in front of the very body, the Parliament, which handed him an unexpected pink slip. Former president Sharif SheikhAhmed extended an olive branch both to the parliament and to the president-elect, pledging to work as a private citizen towards the betterment of his wounded nation.

EEqually important is that former Prime Minister, Dr. AbdiWali Ali Gas, had graciously conceded a defeat after a disappointing first round of the competition. In his brief speech, Dr. AbdiWali urged his compatriots to forge ahead with more positive changes and not to reverse the course of progress so far travelled. Nonetheless, Dr. Gas would go into the history books as the Prime Minister that had advanced the cause of normalization and pacification of this tumultuous nation.

There are few lessons learned from this election:

Candidates from Mogadishu and its environs undeniably dominated the first and second round of the election as the results testify;
Candidate Farmajo’s populism and his popularity with certain sectors in the Diaspora community was not well received by the law makers;
The highly educated diaspora based candidates did poorly, with the exception of the former Prime minister who received 30 votes in the first round to the winners 60 votes.

So, what are the attributes that earned Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud this coveted position of Somalia’s presidency? One attribute that stands out is he is unique bread among Somalia’s educated class. He is both a member of the Diaspora and those who stayed behind

While he can claim to possess attributes of the Somalia’s bourgeoning Diaspora communities, he had also shared the pain and sufferings of its downtrodden masses that have been locked up inside Mogadishu. Whereas he is westernized educationally with his training at the former Faculty of Education, Lafole, India and SUNY-affiliated SIDAM institute, he had stayed behind for the good part of the last 22 years in Mogadishu serving the displaced, educating their children and engaging in peacemaking among Mogadishu’s rival groups.

Now, he faces the arduous task of forming a government of quality and high degree of ethics. With the expectation to be met, president-elect Mahamud needs all our support.

Faisal A. Roble


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