Fresh hope for Somalia after new president elected

The election of a new president raised hope Tuesday that Somalia could emerge from two decades of civil war, but Islamist rebels and observers reminded Hassan Sheikh Mohamud of the tough road ahead.

The 56-year-old academic promised to bring Somalia, best known as a byword for failed state, back into the international fold, but he inherits an ongoing war, a humanitarian crisis, feeble institutions and deeply entrenched warlordism.

The embattled government's Western backers praised the vote as a milestone in the restoration of peace, but the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels who still control vast swathes of the country promptly dismissed it as illegitimate.

"I promise that Somalia reclaims its place in the world community as of today -- and to do that, we must ensure that we move forward," Hassan was quoted as saying in a statement Tuesday.

The respected lecturer and peace activist faces the daunting task of putting together a credible government after more than a decade of transitional administrations seen as corrupt and toothless.

The United States congratulated the new president, voicing hope the election will mark a new era for the African nation.

"We look forward to working with him," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told journalists, adding that Monday's presidential vote was "the final step in the roadmap to end the transition".

"It's also a hopeful sign for the new era of Somali governance," she said, highlighting security gains made in the Horn of Africa nation by an African Union mission and Somali national forces.

The White House also sent congratulations to the "Somali people for completing this momentous political transition" which it said marked "an important milestone" for the country.

UN leader Ban Ki-moon urged the new president to "move expeditiously, to appoint an inclusive, accountable government that can begin the work of peacebuilding in the country", a spokesman said in a statement.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called Hassan to tell him he had "a strong mandate to establish a new government that can rebuild the country".

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has sought to take a leading role in Somalia's peace efforts in recent months, described the election as "a significant moment" for the Horn of Africa nation.

"Somalia's leaders must now work together to build a more representative and transparent system, tackle corruption and strengthen security and stability," he said in a statement.

The outgoing president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, had been confident of re-election before Monday's vote and few had predicted Hassan would even be among the main contenders.

As a former top leader in the Islamic Courts Union that overran the country in 2006 and gave birth to the Shebab group, Sharif's election in January 2009 was seen then as Somalia's best chance in years to end the conflict.

Hardline Islamists always considered him a traitor however and Western powers were reluctant to negotiate with a terror-listed group, but analysts suggested the new president might be in a better position to broker truly inclusive talks.

"For there to be lasting peace... Shebab needs to be incorporated into future dialogue," Ahmed Soliman, Horn of Africa researcher at the London-based think tank Chatham House, told AFP.

"If Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is able to maintain good links with the Shebab and bring them to the table for dialogue that would be a positive step," he said.

Hassan, a member of the dominant Hawiye clan, has links to the Somali branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement which has been achieving huge political gains on the back of the Arab Spring and has generous backing from Gulf states.

The Shebab, which has proclaimed its allegiance to Al-Qaeda and waged a deadly campaign against the government and foreign troops in Somalia, dismissed the election process but appeared to spare Hassan himself.

"Nothing personal, but the whole process is like an enemy project," spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP Tuesday.

Around 20,000 troops from Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya are currently battling the Shebab in Somalia.

An African Union-led military drive has reclaimed control of most of Mogadishu, but the country's second city and key port of Kismayo remains under insurgent control.

J. Peter Pham of the Washington-based Atlantic Council warned Hassan had no real power base and would be presiding over "an entity more known for stealing foreign aid than using it for the good of the Somali people."

Among some of the most pressing issues the new president will have to address is a humanitarian situation which the United Nations has often described as the worst in the world.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Tuesday that the number of people needing food aid in Somalia had dropped 16 percent in half a year but still stood at a staggering 2.1 million.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Philippines hits back at Beijing over South China Sea
    Philippines hits back at Beijing over South China Sea

    The Philippines on Saturday shot back at Beijing's criticism of its activities in the South China Sea, saying they were "in no way comparable to China's massive reclamation activities" in the waters. It also said accusations that Manila was being "hypocritical" would not distract people from Beijing's own actions which were raising regional tensions. "The Philippines' possible undertaking of necessary maintenance and repairs on its existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea... is in no …

  • Boxing hero Pacquiao is top tax-payer in Philippines: govt
    Boxing hero Pacquiao is top tax-payer in Philippines: govt

    Boxing hero Manny Pacquiao, who faces his biggest fight against unbeaten American Floyd Mayweather, already holds top spot as the number one taxpayer in the Philippines, government records showed Saturday. A list of top individual tax-payers for 2013, posted on the Bureau of Internal Revenue website, put the boxer-turned-congressman at number one with 163.84 million pesos ($3.72 million) in taxes paid. Internal revenue chief Kim Henares confirmed that Pacquiao topped the list but stressed …

  • Phl, Japan sign P9.6-B ODA projects
    Phl, Japan sign P9.6-B ODA projects

    The Philippines and Japan have signed agreements for six official development assistance (ODA) projects amounting to 22.289 billion yen or around P9.6 billion. …

  • Commission to launch glossary of Pinoy meteorological terms
    Commission to launch glossary of Pinoy meteorological terms

    The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) will release a glossary of meteorological terms in Filipino to help the Filipino people better understand weather forecasts and instill disaster awareness among them. National Artist for Literature and KWF president Virgilio Almario said yesterday the KWF produced the glossary titled Patnubay sa Weder Forkast to simplify scientific terms used in the weather bulletins of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration …

  • Divorce bill good scapegoat for couples – CBCP
    Divorce bill good scapegoat for couples – CBCP

    Contrary to what romance novel writers would want their readers to believe, there are no perfect marriages in the real world. This was according to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas. In a statement titled “CBCP Position Against the Divorce Bill and Against the Decriminalization of Adultery and Concubinage,” Villegas said that while it is not easy to make relationships last, learning how to work out differences – and …

  • DND holds off infra dev’t in Pag-Asa
    DND holds off infra dev’t in Pag-Asa

    The defense department is holding off repairs and other planned infrastructure projects on Pag-Asa Island, one of seven islets and two reefs occupied by Filipino troops in the disputed Spratly Islands. Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pointed out that the maintenance and repair of facilities in Pag-Asa Island are not covered by the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of parties involved in the West Philippine Sea territorial disputes. “Repair and maintenance is okay but before …

  • Blackout to hit 5 Aurora towns
    Blackout to hit 5 Aurora towns

    An 11-hour power outage will hit five towns in Aurora on Tuesday, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) announced yesterday. The NGCP said Baler, Dingalan, San Luis, Ma. Aurora and Dipaculao would be affected by the blackout. The NGCP said parts of Nueva Ecija and Aurora were hit by a power interruption yesterday due to the tripping of the Cabanatuan-Baler 69kV line. …

  • Rules set for climate change programs
    Rules set for climate change programs

    The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Climate Change Commission (CCC) have released the revised guidelines to track and monitor climate change adaptation programs of the government. “The government of the Philippines has demonstrated leadership and strong commitment in implementing a comprehensive reform agenda to respond to climate change,” read the joint memorandum circular published in The STAR yesterday. “With the goal of using the budget process to plan, prioritize and …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options