Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a former Somali prime minister and dual Somalia-U.S. citizen, was elected president of Somalia after two rounds of voting by the country’s newly selected parliament.
The departing president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, conceded defeat on Wednesday, in a sign that the war-ravaged nation can hope for a smooth transition of power.
Celebratory gunfire rang around the capital Mogadishu, which had been under security lockdown throughout the day to ensure the voting took place without the risk of a violent attack from al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.
Still, an attack claimed four lives in Puntland, and mortar fire was heard in Mogadishu throughout the day, a reminder that the threat of violence and destabilization from al-Shabaab is never too far away.
The 55-year-old Mr. Mohamed, known widely by his nickname “Farmajo,” is faced with an unenviable set of problems, including U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Somalia’s citizens and refugees, a famine threatening six million of his people, al-Shabaab’s violent Islamist insurgency and an isolated and impoverished economy.
He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Buffalo, and was resident of Buffalo for much of his adult life. He was briefly prime minister of Somalia between 2010 and 2011, and had a record of establishing payment systems for the army, one of the biggest challenges to boosting Somalia’s security and a key area of cooperation between the U.S. and the Horn of Africa nation.
Mr. Mohamed focused on the U.S.-Somalia relationship as an academic, and is seen as a leader who can help put that relationship back on track after Mr. Trump’s recent inclusion of the nation of more than 10 million on a blacklist of seven majority-Muslim countries the new White House believes pose a terrorist threat to the U.S.
After his short stint as prime minister, Mr. Mohamed worked as a civil servant at the State Transportation Department in Buffalo. He is one of many highly educated Somalis who fled to the U.S. during the civil war, and have been increasingly drawn back to their motherland despite its many troubles.
Mr. Mohamed enjoys popular support in Somalia, which was evident on Wednesday as hundreds took the streets of Mogadishu, defying security concerns, to celebrate his victory. In Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood, known as “Little Mogadishu” because of its almost entirely Somali population, celebrations flooded the streets.
Yet there was little doubt that Mr. Mohamed will have to work to establish his legitimacy as a leader in what has been a fraught electoral process, criticized by Somalis and Western aid donors as corrupt.
The long-delayed presidential election is the penultimate step in the country’s quasi-democratic attempt at electing representatives, which started in October.
The electoral process, which was based on the country’s traditional clan system but was more inclusive than previous attempts at democracy, was supported and funded by the international community, but marred by allegations of vote-buying and candidate intimidation. Continue reading at the Wall Street Journal.
Biographical Information (From AllAfrica.com)
Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo was born in 1962 in Mogadishu to a family originally from Gedo in south-western Somalia.
In 1985, he was appointed as First Secretary at the Somali embassy in Washington DC.
In 1989, he left to earn his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Buffalo in New York. During this time, Farmajo applied for political asylum in the United States after the government collapsed in 1991.
He continued his studies at the University at Buffalo and obtained a master’s degree in political sciences and international relations.
After becoming an American citizen, he went on to hold several jobs in New York State, including the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, the Erie County Division of Equal Employment Opportunity, and the New York State Department of Transportation.
President Ahmed appointed Farmajo as prime minister in October 2010 to succeed Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who resigned from his post following a dispute.
Farmajo resigned from this post in June 2011 under pressure from the international community as part of the Kampala Accord between President Ahmed and the Speaker of Parliament Aadan, during which the mandate of the transitional institutions was extended to August 20, 2012.
In 2011, Farmajo founded a new political party, the Somali Justice and Equality Party, also known as Tayo. Farmajo is currently secretary general for Tayo, which is chaired by Dr. Mariam Qasim, his former minister of women’s affairs. Tayo is the first Somali political party headed by a woman.
Farmajo speaks Somali and English and holds dual Somali and US citizenship.