Somalia’s new president signals a new era of hope for country

Women carry posters of the newly elected Somalian President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as they celebrate his victory, near the Daljirka Dahson monument in Mogadishu [Feisal Omar/Reuters]
Euphoria erupted in most neighbourhoods of the Somali capital Mogadishu as soon as the presidential electoral committee announced Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, popularly known as Farmajo, had won the poll.
Farmajo attained 184 votes while his opponents, the incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and predecessor Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, garnered a combined 119 votes in the February 8 contest.
President Mohamoud conceded defeat by taking up the microphone and telling the joint session of the Lower and Upper houses about his decision not to run for a third round.
His decision prompted a rapturous applause, paving the way for Farmajo to be declared president.
Immediately, there were celebrations punctuated with gunfire salutes outside the hall in Afasyoni, a complex next to Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport, where the election was taking place.
Hordes of people who had learnt that the president-elect was going to stay at the Jazeera Plaza streamed into the hotel, chanting Farmajo! Farmajo!
Escorted by guards, the president-elect retreated to the hotel, amid chants by ecstatic crowds who promised night-long celebrations.
However, Farmajo’s message through the media, was: “Please go back to your homes. The celebrations must end.”
“Time for celebrations must end. Time for work is going to start,” he said.
The following day, assemblies of youth and even military officers did street dances along major roads in Mogadishu, largely ignoring the message of the president-elect.
Portraits of Farmajo with slogans such, ‘Danta dalka iyo dadka’ (for the benefit of the land and the people) and ‘Nabad iyo Nolol’ (peace and life), were on sale along the main streets.
Farmajo hosted at the Jazeera Hotel, the so-called the coalition of presidential candidates, made up of 20 opposition contenders for the seat which he won.
The president-elect was advised to shun tribalism and avoid surrounding himself with a few individuals, but instead form a government that could lift the Somali people out of their predicament.
Many were the pledges Farmajo made during the campaigns and in his address to the legislators prior to the presidential election.
He promised to establish strong bonds between the citizens and the government to enable the former participate in the stabilisation of the country through tax payments.
During the campaigns, Farmajo also promised to form a government that truly represents the people.
In his address to the MPs, Farmajo asserted that his predecessor neglected the security of the parliamentarians, stating that 19 lawmakers were killed over the past four years.
Between February 2- 5, each of the 22 presidential candidates was given 15 minutes to address a joint session of the members of the Lower and Upper houses.
It was the opportunity for each to sell his programme.
Farmajo used his time to explain the problems he wished to tackle if elected, including insecurity, corruption, bad governance and the prevailing drought.
The next president-elect’s first major assignment will be the nomination of a prime minister.
In so doing, he will have to adhere to a complex clan power sharing known as the 4.5 formula. Once the PM is approved by parliament, he or she will have to form a Cabinet and present a programme to be endorsed by parliament.
Farmajo told the legislators: “My government will implement my ‘Nabad iyo Nolol’ (peace and life) programme.
“My government will collaborate with the aid agencies in the face of millions of our people suffering from shortage of water, food and medication.”
“We need urgent relief,” he added.
Farmajo had, during the campaigns, taken cognisance of the fact that most Somalis lived in poverty. “We are poor people sitting on enormous natural wealth,” he told the legislators.
“We need to benefit from the untapped resources.”
The president-elect also reacted to recent Transparency International report that ranked Somalia as the most corrupt country in the world.
He also retorted to whispers that Somalia was suffering from too much intervention by foreigners.
“This country is not for sale. This nation is not for sale,” remarked Farmajo from the podium of parliament.
While serving as a premier in 2011, Farmajo promised economic reforms, including regular pay for the civil servants and the armed personnel. He stated that such a programme could only be realised if corruption was eliminated from the state apparatus.
Security has been a recurrent theme in the president-elect’s speeches, in which he points a finger at the Al-Shabaab, the radical jihadist group linked to the Al-Qaeda.
To Farmajo, the answer to the stabilisation of security was the armed forces getting regular pay. “Payment to the armed forces is not a reward, but a right,” said Farmajo while addressing the parliamentarians.
He criticised the preceding government for underperforming in tackling the jihadists.
“The country is at war, but the government (of President Mohamoud) does not seem committed to war,” he told the legislators.
He added, “The war is only from one side – Al-Shabaab attacks and the government only offers condolences and condemnations.”
“Our armed forces need good treatment to get the upper hand,” he said, adding that such objective could be achieved through the people trusting their government.
Farmajo appears set to employ the stick and a carrot policy in tackling terrorism.
“Al-Shabaab has only two options: Peace is extended to them. If they accept, it is fine. If not, we – the people, the MPs and the government – will go to war.”
A Mogadishu political analyst Hussein Mohamed, reckons that the path ahead may not be particularly smooth for Farmajo. “The road ahead is littered with broken glasses,” said Mohamed during a fadhi-ku-dirir (informal debate) at a teashop in downtown Mogadishu.
“The groups with different agendas are various and diverse,” he added.
Elaborating further, Mohamed remarked, “The religious groups vary from the extremist Al-Shabaab to the very moderate Sufis.”
He also pointed out that those leading unregistered political parties harboured diverse objectives from the nationalistic socialist doctrines to liberal programmes.
No doubt; clan affiliation and tribal interests also play a critical role in the Somali psyche. That the Somali regions and local authorities often differ over partisan interests, cannot be gainsaid.
The celebrations of the president-elect reached a epic the next Sunday when Abdullahi Mohamud Osman alias Danyeerow met with Farmajo at the Jazeera Plaza Hotel. Osman, a humble man from a farming community in Jowhar District, 90km north of Mogadishu, is widely known as Ar Farmajo ii geenya (Take me to Farmajo).
As soon as Farmajo was declared president-elect, the farmer ran wildly across Jowhar town, yelling Ar Farmajo ii geenya. His photos and message have gone viral across the social media used by Somalis.
“In 2011, I predicted that Farmajo would be elected president in my life time,” said Osman after meeting the new leader.
“I told him to realise his motto: Danta dalka iyo dadka (for the benefit of the land and the people),” he added, saying that he prayed for his success.

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