Kenya may have to study Somalia’s new President a lot more to know how the two countries’ relations will be under his leadership.
Elected on Wednesday after incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pulled out of the third round of voting and conceded defeat, Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed who has also served as the war-torn nation’s Prime Minister in the past, comes in with a full in-tray.
His country must deal with the perennial menace of al-Shabaab and put systems in order for a stable country.
Kenya promptly congratulated him with State House saying Nairobi will continue to work with Mogadishu to stabilise Somalia.
“The just-ended election process represents an important democratic milestone and gives renewed hope to the people of Somalia, as well as the international community, that Somalia is indeed on the road to full recovery,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement.
“As you assume the onerous responsibilities of this high office, I wish to reaffirm my commitment to continuing the fruitful collaboration and interaction between our countries at various levels, particularly in helping realise a more secure and prosperous future for the Somali people and the region,” the President added.
But Kenya is in great need of a quick solution on the refugee situation, especially after the High Court blocked its planned closure of the Dadaab refugee camp.
Besides, Kenya is also entangled in a case with Somalia over the maritime border.
Last week, the International Court of Justice ruled the case must proceed to full hearing, dismissing Kenya’s argument that there exists an alternative mechanism to handle the dispute.
Yet Kenya has also contributed 3,664 soldiers to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) whose future and working relationship with Somali security agencies Mohamed’s government will have to determine.
“I did not know the guy very well but, going by the celebrations we have seen among Somalis, it tells something,” Macharia Munene, professor of history and politics at the United States International University – Africa, told the Nation.
“It means he has a lot of influence and Somalis, including those living in Kenya, are under his control. The question is, is it good or bad? If he stabilises Somalia, it will reduce dependency on Kenya, for example. But we need to study him more,” Prof Munene explained in an interview.
Moments after he was declared the winner, celebrations erupted in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area where most of the urban Somali refugees live.
There were also celebrations in Garissa and other townships after the 55-year-old father-of-four was declared the new President.
Somalis generally believe the new President, who is also an American national, can help bring their country back from the brink. Somalia’s former Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur told the Nation that Mohamed represents a promise for reforms that many Somalis yearn for.
“He overcame great odds; against the incumbent who had more political clout, to win the election by a landslide,” said the man who also ran in the election but dropped out of the race in the first round.
Nur, Somalia’s envoy to Kenya between 2007 and 2015, said Mohamed was liked by the many MPs who voted for him because he “performed well” as Prime Minister between October 2010 and June 2011, under the transitional government of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. The former ambassador said Mohamed ensured a regular flow of pay to civil servants and security officers involved in the war against al-Shabaab.
“Somalis expect him to do a better job in combating high-level corruption within the federal government that has caused loss of precious resources from local taxes and donor funds.
“The new President must also speed up the rebuilding of the Somali national army so as to take more responsibilities of maintaining law and order, thereby reducing reliance on Amisom,” he said.
Amisom, in Somalia since 2007, is a 22,000-strong military force sent to Somalia to secure the nascent government from the threats of al-Shabaab. It gets its troops from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Ethiopia.
Largely financed by the European Union which has, through the African Union Peace Facility, sent in €1.1 billion (about Sh121 billion) in the last 10 years, debate has recently emerged on whether the military path is the right one to pursue the Shabaab.
Back in Kenya, opposition politicians led by Cord leader Raila Odinga have demanded that Kenya withdraws its troops. State House maintains it will not do so until al-Shabaab are annihilated.
Amisom had announced it would start a gradual withdrawal from November this year and finally be out of Somalia by 2020.
During the run-up to the election, Mohamed from the Darood clan who are believed to have risen up against Siad Barre’s government, argued that he could throw in some diplomacy and negotiate with the moderates among the Shabaab. This, he believes, will weaken the entire militant organisation by isolating the hardliners. Nur agreed this may work especially since the shabaabs are composed of the youth with most of them being jobless.
“Addressing youth unemployment is priority since it will help prevent more youth from joining criminal groups,” he said.
Kenya’s position, however, remains that it cannot negotiate with terrorists. But Mohamed in-tray will mainly be about clean-ups.
The new 328 MPs forming the Lower House and the Senate voted in the elections where the winner required two-thirds. These MPs had been elected by about 13,000 delegates across the country, chosen by clan elders.