Somalia On Wednesday night locked down the capital Mogadishu to secure the venue for the inauguration of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud scheduled for Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Hussein Roble said the decision was reached to allow safe passage for international dignitaries arriving in the country to attend the change of guard in Mogadishu. He said the lockdown will last until 5pm local time on Thursday, hours after the inauguration.
“I respectfully request the people of Mogadishu to be patient with the road closures from tonight 10pm to 5pm tomorrow, as international leaders and delegates arrive in the country to attend the inauguration of the Federal Government of Somalia President,” he said.
Police and other security agencies will prevent movement by road in and out of the city as well as ring-fence the roads around the venue, only allowing accredited personnel to pass through.
The lockdown came as al-Shabaab fired warning mortar shots on Wednesday night in a show of their persistent interruptions to security in the capital.
The Somali militant group has lately targeted installations in Mogadishu using roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Last month, Somalia locked down the city to allow MPs to elect the President, days after al-Shabaab attempted to fire mortars on their venue in the Green Zone, inside the airport.
Mr Mohamud, initially President between 2012 and 2017, won in the much-delayed elections held on May 15 this year to serve as president a second time.
He defeated Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo after three rounds of a secret ballot conducted by elected legislators in the country. Eyes will be on him to see how he deals with the country’s immediate internal problems, as well as its foreign policy.
The country is facing a grim drought which Mohamud himself admitted last week was crippling the country. On Tuesday, the UN, citing data from the Famine Early Warning Network and the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, said at least 7 million people, or nearly half of the country’s population is now facing crisis-level food insecurity or worse, through at least September 2022.
“Of those, 213,000 people face catastrophic hunger and starvation, a drastic increase from the 81,000 forecast in April. More areas are at risk of famine, particularly in the south of the country in regions where insecurity and conflict makes humanitarian access more challenging,” the agencies stated in a joint statement.
Mohamud must also deal with relations with neighbouring countries and the Middle East. His predecessor occasionally bickered with Kenya, with which they have a long running maritime boundary dispute; as well as Djibouti whom Mohamud once accused of siding with Kenya.
Mohamud, who incidentally sued Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the maritime boundary, has promised to create “a Somalia at peace with itself and with the world.” The ICJ last year ruled in favour of Somalia, although Kenya rejected the decision.
Leaders from the eastern Africa region are expected to attend the inauguration, including Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh as well of Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Kamal Madbouly.
International delegations from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Malaysia are also expected to be in attendance.
All the presidents of Somalia’s Federal Member States—Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West and Jubbaland—are already in Mogadishu for the event.
- Additional reporting by Abdulkadir Khalif