Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud on Thursday took the mantle of power for the second time, vowing to reconcile his country’s divided political groups, as well as relations with neighbours following years of bickering.
Mr Mohamud, who took over from Mr Mohamed Farmaajo, said his country will remain neutral in the international space, while befriending countries that will respect its sovereignty and seek to tackle common problems like al-Shabaab and poverty.
“The event that we are witnessing today [his inauguration] is a specimen of democracy being reinstituted in Somalia,” he said, stressing that except when the country was, for 21 years, under military rule (1969 – 1991), Somalis have always been pro-democracy.
Mr Mohamud indicated that reconciliation and peaceful coexistence is a priority for his government, addressing a gathering that included his predecessors Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Mr Farmaajo with whom they raise up hands to show unity.
“To achieve true reconciliation, we are going to address whatever is being felt,” he stated, adding that the talks with the breakaway region of Somaliland will be invigorated.
“An important instrument that will boost reconciliation is to complete the review and implementation of the provisional constitution,” the new President said, adding that democratization is to return power to the people by allowing citizens to elect and get elected.
“We shall boost our amicability with our neighbours and Somalia’s partners across the world.”
Mr Mohamud noted the ongoing drought with devastating effects, illustrating that Somalia severely suffers from climate change, sandwiched between floods and droughts.
“We cannot continue surviving months of delivering water to drought affected people, then following by rescuing people affected by floods,” the president said, calling for action.
He inherits a country whose levels of government at national and federal levels remain broken, corruption is endemic and al-Shabaab militants even fired mortars at the airport ahead of the event.
He promised to work day and night to lead accountable state institutions aiming at development, including sound programmes to collaborate with the International Financial Institutions, including on the issue of debt relief.
At the event, one after the other, the leaders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, the three countries neighbouring Somalia, promised to continue their assistance in the stabilization of Somalia.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had each flown from their respective capitals to join the inauguration ceremony held in Mogadishu to mark the election of Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud on Thursday.
Kenyatta hailed the peaceful transfer of power between the immediate former president (Mr Farmaajo) and Mohamud who has become President for a second time.
Mr Kenyatta indicated that Mr Mohamud, whose first term as president lasted between 2012 and 2017, has an opportunity to forge a closer regional collaboration.
“Kenya warmly welcome the peaceful transfer of power,” remarked Kenyatta, stressing his country’s readiness to work with Somalia’s leadership through Mr Mohamud’s development agenda.
He indicated that working together generates opportunity for successful Somalia, Kenya and the Eastern Africa region.
Ethiopian PM Ahmed Abiy attracted standing ovation when he greeted the masses with few remarks in Somali language ‘Hambalyo, hambalyo Madaxweeyne, Waxaan kuu rajeeynaa in Ilaheey kugu asturo. Waxaan u rajeeynaa Shacabka Soomaaliya nabad waarto iyo barwaaqo.’ (Congratulations, congratulations Mr President. I wish God will offer you blessings. I wish the Somali people a lasting peace and prosperity).
Mr Ahmed’s visit was also unique as he was leading a large delegation that included ethic Somali officials in Ethiopia.
The delegation included Vice Chairperson of the ruling Prosperity Party, Adem Farah, the Federal Finance Minister Ahmed Shide as well as Security Advisor of the Prime Minister Redwan Hussein and President of the Somali Region, Mustafa Omer Agjar, among others.
Mr Guelleh, arguably the longest serving leader in the Horn of Africa, promised Djibouti’s brotherly cooperation, especially in the sphere of experience sharing.
Following the regional leaders’ remarks, former Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, Somalia’s 8th head of state leading the Transitional Federal Government (2009-2012) sent a special greeting to former President Farmaajo who lost the contest on May 15.
“Former President Farmaajo, I tell you that loss of election may have been a blessing. Otherwise, you had won it might have been interpreted as a leader rigging the election,” Sharif Ahmed said, hinting his remarks was a humorous joke.
Mr Farmaajo was very thankful to all those who helped him during his tenure, especially the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and its successor, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
“I thank you [AMISOM and ATMIS peacekeepers] for supporting our courageous armed forces, co-striving to render Somalia more stable,” Mr Farmaajo remarked, asking everybody to help the new president.
“I know that presidency is an arduous job. So, let all join hands to pray for and support the new government,” he added.