"Waabaa baryay bilicsan, arooryo baxsan maalin boqran."
Kuluc and Waberi Band
Today, after nearly 22 yeas since Somalia’s last central government collapsed, Somalis everywhere in the world celebrate the election (selection) of a president and the dawn of a new beginning. Today’s news that Somalia’s newly selected members of parliament voted Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in a landslide victory as the new President for Somalia provides new jolt of optimism for the long suffering masses. It rekindles our spirit and gives us hope that a new dawn is upon us. While the newly elected president is relatively unknown, his fresh face combined with the defeat of his challenger, the outgoing President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed who became synonymous with much of what ails the country, gives us so much hope that we finally turned the corner and better days are ahead.
The Somali people have been disappointed by their leaders time and again and today had all the hallmarks of been yet another typical day in Somalia mired with backroom deals and broken promises. Two events capable of derailing the whole arduous process of ending the transition and embracing new beginning took place before voting began. First, the outgoing President who was among the two dozen presidential hopefuls, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed mended fences with his former colleague and erstwhile nemesis Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, in a move widely seen to prop up the fledgling campaign of the former president and to sway votes thought to be loyal to Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan. Secondly, several Somali warlords barred by the Technical Selection Committee where, mysteriously and disappointedly I may add, allowed to participate in today’s vote thanks in large part to former President Ahmed’s largesse. In addition, there was allegation of massive vote buying and vote rigging. All of this combined with the cynicism of war weary public and many thought a forgone conclusion that Sheikh Sharif would remained. It is this backdrop that Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud triumphed and is elected overwhelmingly by the Parliament which makes his victory that much more startling and joyful.
The difficult challenge of nation building starts now. Security is still major problem in much of the country. The country is awash with small and big weapons in the hands of the public. After many years of senseless civil strive, trust is at a deficit and faith amongst neighbors will not be easily restored for a while. Fast majority of the citizens in the country live in abject poverty and many others languish at refugee camps across the world or find themselves marginalized even within their own country. There are policy challenges that await the new administration as well. Some of the biggest challenges include preparing the nation for popular elections in four years time, doing away with the scourge of the 4.5 formula and finishing the difficult task of implementing functioning federal institutions as agreed upon in the new Constitution.
As the President elected stated so eloquently in his address to the members of the Parliament just few days ago, these challenges while many, are not insurmountable however. With the cumulative support of his nation behind his back, the President must go to work immediately and appoint a charismatic and qualified Prime Minister capable of turning words into actions and achieving meaningful results. He must continue the goodwill generated by the previous administration with other political actors and strengthen them. And most importantly, he must maintain cordial relationship with the new parliament which is fortunately led by a competent Speaker for the first time in many years.
Mr. President, our country has been labeled a “failed state and a pirate state.” We have the dubious distinction of being ranked the world’s most corrupted nation and our children still die of diseases long eradicated from much of the world. The Parliament embraced change today and sent a clear signal that the status quo is no longer acceptable. We hope you are up to the task and we welcome you with open hearts and minds. We are mindful of all the challenges that await you but we strongly believe that with the right vision, leadership and policy, you can leave a lasting legacy behind and heal our wounds. We want to believe that it’s indeed a morning again in Somalia full with eternal optimism and pride. I congratulate you and wish you and our country the best of luck. Let us sing together in unison “waabaa baryay bilicsan, arooryo baxsan maalin boqran.”
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