Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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What is awaiting Somalia’s newly elected president after the conclusion of elections?

By Mohamed Ahmed Adan and Ibrahim Mukhtar

A protracted atmosphere of political disarray in Somalia came to an end after former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was re-elected as Somalia’s 10th head of state on May 15 after defeating the incumbent president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in the final round of the elections. Farmajo was swift to accept the results and officially handed over power to his immediate predecessor on May 23 becoming the latest Somali leader in the past 22 years to uphold the culture of peaceful transfer of power.

President Hassan Sheikh and former President Farmajo

The elections have attracted international attention for demonstrating political maturity and transparency. World leaders such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were quick to congratulate President Mohamud. His ascendance to power for the second time in the last 10 years has been received with great optimism both in Somalia and abroad with analysts hopeful that his comeback comes with a wealth of experience.

Immediately after his re-election, President Mohamud held a series of meetings with local politicians and foreign dignitaries signaling his readiness to usher a new era for Somalia after months of election standoff that positioned the fragile Horn of African country on the brink of another civil war. Amid high expectations on the president both at home and abroad, the newly elected leader has many opportunities to deliver, but also a host of challenges to deal with.

 Addressing Insecurity

 Security remains Somalia’s top agenda. Al-Shabaab continues to threaten the security of the country and the region. Attacks by the militants have increased amid the election impasse necessitating the replacing of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), whose mandate expired on March 31, with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) which is due to expire in December 2024. The Farmajo administration made great strides in strengthening, professionalizing and institutionalizing the Somali Security Forces (SSF). President Mohamud has to build on this to ensure they are ready to take over from ATMIS. Besides traditional security, President Mohamud also has to prioritize food and human security in the country amid widespread hunger and poverty. The United Nations estimates over 6 million Somalis have been affected by the ongoing drought in the country.

One Person One Vote

When the lower house extended the term of ex-president Farmajo for two more years on April 12, 2021 to plan for ballot elections, the move was slammed by the upper house and the opposition as unconstitutional. Amid fears of civil war and international pressure, the lower house retracted from its vote paving way for a return of the recently concluded indirect elections. However, Somali citizens still yearn for one person one vote (1P1V) elections especially considering the manipulation of indirect elections by Federal Member States (FMS) in having preferred candidates elected to the parliament further reducing public trust in legislatures. President Mohamud, hence, should put in place measures that will ensure the upcoming elections are based on 1P1V model.

Rebuilding political institutions

Somalia’s political institutions have seen noticeable improvement after years of total state collapse since 1991. However, much needs to be done. President Mohamud promised in a recent interview with VOA Somalia to prioritize the reforming of the various state institutions. These include: completing the federalization of the country for smooth cooperation between FMS and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), as well as resuming talks with the breakaway Somaliland; reforming the judiciary; preparing the country for direct elections; completing the constitutional review process. Other areas that need to be prioritized include the establishment of constitutional court, national reconciliation and inclusive politics in order to avoid violence and political instability.

 Foreign policy review

Somalia is strategically located along key maritime routes and enjoys vast untapped natural resources making it an arena for geopolitical competition among various regional and global actors. The 2017 Gulf crisis negatively affected Somalia’s relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia as the Horn of African country adopted a neutral stance on the blockade on Qatar. The Farmajo administration also had strenuous relations with Kenya over a number of issues including the maritime dispute, while forming regional alliances with Ethiopia and Eritrea.  China’s interest in the region and in Somalia has deepened alarming the US which has recently authorized the redeployment of around 500 troops in Somalia after their withdrawal last year on the orders of former president Donal Trump. Meanwhile, Turkey has remained a key ally of Somalia officially opening the TURKSOM military academy in September 2017 which has so far graduated over 5,000 Somali soldiers.

 In recognition of the importance of Somalia’s foreign policy to domestic stability and development, President Mohamoud was quick to hold meetings with ambassadors of the US, Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Ethiopia in line with his slogan “Soomaali Heshiis ah, Dunidana heshiis la ah” – a Somalia that is at peace with itself and at peace with the world. Hence, a new foreign policy doctrine that promotes national sovereignty and contributes to peace and prosperity while also maintaining stable relations with other countries, should be prioritized by President Mohamud’s administration.

Economic policies

Another area that President Mohamud needs to prioritize is creating new economic policies in order to promote foreign direct investment, upgrade relations with donors to achieve economic resilience and cover budget deficits, and the completion of the debt relief process. The president also needs to step up tax collection to go beyond paying the salaries of civil servants and provide public services.

In sum, while President Mohamud’s election comes with great optimism, solving Somalia’s complex and multifaceted problems will not be an easy ride. To stand up to the expectations, the president will need to appoint a competent prime minister, utilize his vast political experience to ensure good governance, and demonstrate wise leadership in the next four years.

Mohamed Ahmed Adan
Mohamed is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at Ankara University. His research focuses on state-building, political institutions, and democracy in the Horn of Africa.

Ibrahim Mukhtar
Email: [email protected]
Ibrahim is a researcher in International Relations at Ankara-based Yildirim Beyazit University.

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