Will new reformer Somali president overcome the huge challenges?

Tuesday February 14 2017

Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. PHOTO | AFP

Newly elected Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has set two precedents. He has overcome the clan barrier, and shattered the trend over the past three years that money determines the winner of the election.

Two of his key opponents —outgoing president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and former president Sheikh Sharrif Ahmed — had large financial resources, but Mr Farmajo still won the February 8 elections held at Aden Adde International Airport on account of security considerations.

Second, President Farmajo, who hails from the Darood clan, won against strong predictions that the position would go to the majority Hawiye clan of both Mr Mohamud and Mr Ahmed.

Mr Farmajo, who was running on the ticket of the Tayo (Quality) Party, won in the second round with 184 votes against Mr Mohamud’s 80, forcing the latter to concede defeat before the third and final round.

READ: Ex-premier Farmajo wins Somalia presidential poll

“This is the beginning of the unity of Somalia, democracy and the fight against corruption,” said President Farmajo soon after he had won.


According to Mohammed Dubo, the publisher of Somalia Investor, Mr Farmajo won because he enjoyed popular support among Somalis due to his performance when he served as prime minister from 2010–2011.

At that time, he introduced austerity measures by streamlining the operations of the then loss-making Mogadishu port and Aden Adde International Airport to generate income to pay security agencies dues that had been outstanding for years.

Other progressive measures that made President Farmajo, 55, popular included fighting corruption at the Treasury, and curbing wastage by Cabinet ministers on air travel.

While prime minister, he stopped the ministers from hiring aircraft at a cost of $15,000 from Mogadishu to Nairobi, and set up a policy where they took ordinary flights at $200.

In his short victory speech, President Farmajo — whose campaign slogan was Dalka, Danta, Dadka (the land, the needs, the people)— said his win was a result of his reform agenda and support from the masses.

“I wish to thank the Members of Parliament who sought change. Today, the MPs decision represented the desires of the Somali people. This victory belongs to the Somali people wherever they are in the world,” he said.

Mr Farmajo will now have to pick a Hawiye as prime minister, according to the 4.5 clan formula in the Somalia Charter (Constitution). Out of the four main clans, the Darood already has the presidency, and the Digil Merifle (Rahanwyn) have the Speaker through Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari. That means that the new president must find positions for the Hawiye and the Dir clans.

READ: New Somalia president faces myriad challenges

The EU in a statement issued the day after the elections said the president would face high expectations from the Somali population for security, equality, access to justice and services and job opportunities.

Spokesperson for the US State Department Mark Toner said that his country will encourage Somalia’s new administration to take credible steps to stamp out corruption and to establish strong electoral institutions.

A total of 329 members — 275 from the Lower House and 54 from the Senate — took part in the presidential election.