Thursday, April 18, 2024
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Welcoming President-elect Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud

By Faisal Roble

Today is May 15, 2022 and it coincides with two major events with each having its own weight in Somali history. About 75 years ago, the Somali Youth League, SYL, which delivered independence to Somalia was established. The other event is the election of the 10 Somalis presidents since independence in 1960.

President-elect Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud

Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud became that 10th president today. This is a second chance the nation gave to Hassan Sheikh.

After three rounds of election by 328 legislators, consisting a lower house (274- short of one ) and an upper house (54), Hassan Sheikh emerged as the consensus leader. He inherits divided country and a challenging economy at a time.

Hassan Sheikh came to the winning position with the help of the president of Puntland, Said Deni, who delivered to him a large number of votes as well as a range of candidates who sided with him in the final rounds.

For some time, I have been following Hassan Sheikh’s efforts to run and win the seat. I was also keenly aware of his strengths and his coalition building.  I considered him and evaluated his record of the last two years of his administration as well as his political infrastructure including but not limited to his campaign managers and the connections, he has been building with state leaders.  His win is not a surprise to me. Many credit him to have shown political maturity.

As Hassan was leaving the office, he was credited to have scaled down his conflicts with regional leaders and opted to work not against but with them. He also completed the formation of federal member states in his last term. He was given a huge welcome by the West and Obama administration who welcomed him to Washington DC.

This is where President Farmajo lost. He picked unnecessary fights with regional leaders, particularly Puntland and Jubaland. He also surrounded himself with a cohort of less performing ministers and social media savvy but less productive in governance. Between him and his prime minister, Hassan Khayre, they fed the nation more with empty rhetoric than with life-changing policies and programs. Worse, he hired a reactionary pro-Trump lobbyist in Washington DC. Michael Caputo was indicted for serious crimes by the United States.

We learn several lessons from this election.  Somalis are conducting politics beyond clan affiliation but on a web of political, social, and personal issues. For example, President-elect Hassan Sheikh received a boost from Said Deni and Ahmed Islam both of whom hail from the same clan as the leaving President. The opposite is true of former President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

The coalition against Farmajo has been crystallizing for the last 3 or so years. His overstay in office, his conflict with some Federal Member States, and his close alliance with the two autocrats in the region have also expanded the ranks of his opposition. His handing of former colonel Abdikarim Qalbidhagax and his infantile designation of ONLF as a terrorist group did not sync with his populist and nationalist claims.  In the end, Farmajo sounded to many seasoned Somali politicians as a power-hungry potential autocrat.  All those led him to his political setback. Whether he will come back when the country is ready for one-person-one-vote remains to be seen.

Way Forward
President-elect Hassan Sheikh needs to pick a capable prime minister with at least three attributes: 

1. A technocrat Prime Minister who is loyal to him but at the same time capable to give you the bitter advises when necessary that a strong leader needs

2. Choose a Prime Minister after a limited but targeted consensus with diverse stakeholders within the 30 days the constitution provided for.

3. Make a priority to bring the federal government closer to the Federal Member States a 

4. Give a clear foreign policy roadmap that balances regional cooperation with the needs and priorities of the Somali nation.

I hope to revisit this matter at a more opportune time. For now, let us wish good luck to President-elect Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud with this honorable challenge his country entrusts in him.

Faisal A. Roble
Email: [email protected]
Faisal Roble, a writer, political analyst and a former Editor-in-Chief of WardheerNews, is mainly interested in the Horn of Africa region. He is currently the Principal Planner for the City of Los Angeles in charge of Master Planning, Economic Development and Project Implementation Division.

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