For a country ravaged by decades of violence, power vacuum and unprecedented turmoil, the recent election of Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as president has been hailed as a new, dawn; a breath of fresh air and another chance for Somalia to rediscover itself. And rightly so.
For in a country once billed as Africa’s beacon of hope and democracy, the 1991 conflict that set to remove from power dictator Siad Barre degenerated into civil war, with militants taking advantage of the power vacuum to visit mayhem and deaths to the country’s population. The incoming president Mr. Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, was himself a victim of the war which saw him seek asylum in the United States. The extent of the conflict was even evident during this year’s voting when legislators tasked with picking a new president had to be moved from the planned voting venue to a heavily guarded location near Adde Airport as news went round that Al Shabab was planning attacks.
The former prime minister therefore takes office facing a herculean task in restoring confidence and hope to the over 11 million citizens while chaperoning the country towards stability democracy and prosperity.
And the challenges are monumental. From the extremist groups like Alshabaab that have become so daring to meet terror even on the former president, to a looming famine that has seen thousands migrate to neighbouring countries, feuding clans that always spark sporadic and bloody violence and unprecedented employment levels in a country with a relatively young population. Then there is the dented image in the global arena. Recently US president Donald Trump listed Somalia among seven Muslim majority states whose citizens were banned from entering United States.
This year’s elections however have inspired hope. From increasing the number of women parliamentarians entitled to vote to a quarter, to the former president Hassan Sheikh conceding defeat and urging the citizens to support the incoming president, it is a historic moment for the country, and for all good reasons. The United Nations Special representative for Somalia Michael Keating described the election as a “pretty brave thing to do.”
“Today is a new beginning for Somalia. It is the start of the war against terrorists. It is the beginning of the war against corruption,” Mohamed was quoted by the press immediately he was declared winner. As a man of action, going by his record as prime Minister, his word is his bond. He managed to tame corruption, crack the whip on Alshabab and motivated civil servants by ensuring salaries were paid in time.
A country reeling from monumental breakdown in governance, systems and processes require bold and no ‘business as usual’ steps if it is to return to its former glory, and Mr. Farmajo must be alive to such realities.