Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo has called for national unity as the country marked 61 years of independence on Thursday.
The ceremony usually marks the date that Somalia’s northern regions under British colonial control and the southern regions under Italian control merged to form the Somali Republic then led by Aden Abdulle.
Political leaders and diplomats gathered at Villa Somalia, the official residence of the President, as the national sky-blue flag was hoisted again, mimicking the events on the midnight of July 1, 1960.
A guard of honour saluted President Farmaajo as the national hymn was played.
Farmaajo, facing an election in three months, used the occasion to rally the country for national unity, saying defending independence and freedom as envisioned by the country’s forefathers is the harder part.
“I urge my fellow Somalis to solemnly acknowledge and commemorate the efforts of our forefathers, but also to preserve our independence and unity,” he told the gathering, significantly reduced due to Covid-19 restrictions.
On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, the man charged with organising the upcoming indirect elections, sent his wishes on “the glorious day” for Somalia, saying the celebrations mark the unity of its people.
Roble and regional leaders united under the National Consultative Forum (NCF) on June 29 signed a new agreement indicating a timeline for the envisaged elections, including the presidential election set for October 10.
But Somalia’s unity has routinely come under question.
The northern region of Somaliland has since 1991 declared independence although no country recognises it.
Somalia also faces the perennial problem of al-Shabaab, a militant group that has attacked citizens and raided public places for years, killing thousands of people. It routinely forbids celebrations that are not based on Islamic commemorations and there were fears the group could attack as Somalis made merry.
On the eve of July 1, hundreds of youth paraded along the main avenues, draped in attire decorated with the Somali flag.
Most of the youngsters converged at Daljirka Daahsoon (the Unknown Soldier) monument in down town Mogadishu. The youth were later joined by the Mayor of Mogadishu Omar Mohamed Filish.