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Somalia: New Start, Stubborn Realities
Sep 16, 2012 (120916)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
The unexpected election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an
educator and civil society activist, as the new president of
Somalia, has aroused hopes of a new start in that country.
But the stubborn realities he and other Somalis face include
not only the continuing threat from Al Shabaab, which
launched a suicide assassination attack on the new president
on September 12. Even more daunting is the challenge of
embedded corruption in the government he will head, which
has been fostered by a long history of external
Given the previous record of internationally fostered
national governments in Somalia, and the far from democratic
process leading up to the election, cynics may well be
proved right inn their expectations of more of the same. But
observes concur in reporting undeniable signs of hope from
the Somali capital, including a generally improved security
situation, the revival of business activity, return of
professionals from exile, and, not least, the unexpected
election result despite the fact that it came from an
indirect election by parliamentarians who were themselves
the result of a very murky selection process.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains (1) a short news summary
by IRINNEWS, (2) an analytical article by Abdi Aynte from
African Arguments, (3) a blog commentary by Sally Healy,
Horn of Africa specialist at Chatham House in London, and
(4) biographical background on the new Somali president from
For a very informative half-hour discussion of the election,
aired just before the unexpected choice of Hassan Sheikh
Mohamud, see the Inside Story program on Al Jazeera,
featuring commentary by Abdi Ismail Samatar; Muhdin Mohammad
Ali & Abdirashid Hashi.
A detailed report on the high level of corruption in
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government was published in
July by the United Nations. See Report of the Monitoring
Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council
resolution 2002 (2011), available at http://www.un.org/sc/committees/751/mongroup.shtml
Additional recent articles of interest include:
"How the international community has imposed medieval
governance on Somalia"
Mohamud M Uluso
Pambazuka News, September 12,2012
"Professor leaves ivory tower to run for president of
by Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio, August 29, 2012
For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, visit
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Somalia: Mammoth Task Ahead for New President
12 September 2012
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks.
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the
Mogadishu - Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's election as president
of Somalia has been heralded as the start of a new era for
the troubled Horn of Africa state, which has been mired in
conflict for over two decades. Residents of the capital,
Mogadishu, say the new president has his work cut out for
The President got an early taste of the tough road ahead
when he survived an attempted assassination on 12 September.
Mohamud and other officials at the city's Jazeera Hotel -
including Kenyan Foreign Minister Samuel Ongeri - were
unharmed by the suspected suicide attack, which witnesses
say killed the bomber and at least one security guard.
Militant Islamist group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility
for the blast.
"Now we have an educated speaker as well as an educated
president, and I hope there will also be a qualified prime
minister," Abdulahi Hassan Mohamed, a 42-year-old doctor,
told IRIN. "The president [has done] many good services for
the people as a normal citizen - he should build on that."
Somali MPs chose Mohamud - who represents the Peace and
Development Party - over the incumbent, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh
Ahmed, in a runoff on 10 September. An academic and longterm
civil society activist, Mohamud has been described as a
moderate who could unite Somalia's deeply divided, largely
clan-based, political groups.
The election process was marred by allegations of votebuying
and was criticized for not being sufficiently
democratic, but the results have been widely accepted.
Neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the European
Union and the United States, have congratulated the new
The African Union called on Somali stakeholders to "further
the peace and reconciliation process", while UN Secretary
General Ban Ki Moon urged "Somali and international actors
alike to pledge their continued support".
A spokesperson for the Al-Shabab, which still holds parts of
south-central Somalia, said the group rejected the election
and vowed to continue its war against the government.
Charting a new path
Mohamud's election marks the end of the country's eight-year
Transitional Federal Government. The transitional period has
seen Al-Shabab retreat from Mogadishu and other parts of
south-central Somalia; a push by the African Union Mission
in Somalia (AMISOM) aims to remove them from their last
major stronghold, the port city of Kismayo. Somalis will be
hoping Mohamud can capitalize on the relative peace to start
the process of rebuilding the country.
Analysts say the international community - which has guided
much of the transitional process - must now step away from
Somalia's governance and allow Mohamud to do his job. "For
years, members of the international community have been
micromanaging the politics of Somalia from afar... The
Nairobi-based politicians should give him [Mohamud] space to
chart his own path - and make mistakes along the way," Abdi
Aynte, a Somali-American journalist, said in an article on
the Royal African Society's African Arguments online
Suldan Warsame Aliyow, a traditional elder, thinks Somalia
is closer to stability now than any time since 1991, but
warned that the new government must steer clear of the
sectarianism that has blighted previous governments and
deepened the country's conflict. "The president has to
disassociate himself from any group, either tribal or
religious," he said.
Mohamed Abdi Mohamed, a university lecturer in Mogadishu,
said restoring order to Somalia would be a major challenge.
"He must restore rule of law and build a government of
institutions rather than a government of individuals, which
transitional presidents were famous for," he said.
The country's citizens hope the new government can end the
years of insecurity and poverty. "We need a total break from
the past," said Fatima Ali, a businesswoman in Mogadishu's
Bakara suburb. "Let them build a more professional army who
will not rob civilians," said Mohamed Bilqe, a taxi driver.
Somalia's poorly trained army has been accused of abuses,
including rape, torture and robbery.
The soldiers are also hoping for a more structured army.
"Now that the transition is over, the government can sign
more formal international agreements and can ask for loans,"
said Farah Dhiblawe Hirabe, a mine expert in the army who
has defused about 60 landmines in Mogadishu since 2007. "We
hope to be paid better and more regularly."
More than two million refugees and internally displaced
people will be hoping for the chance to go home and rebuild
"I am happy we have a government, but it should do something
to improve our lives," said Ali Mohamed, who left his home
in the Middle Shabelle region after losing his livestock to
drought. He now lives in a camp in Mogadishu with his wife
and three children.
Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, a university professor, said one
of Mohamud's toughest tasks will be implementing the
country's provisional constitution. "Four years from now,
people need to able to elect their leaders through polls,
and that is not an easy job," he said.
Somalia: Appointment of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Signals Change and Challenges
By Abdi Aynte, 11 September 2012
Abdi Aynte is a Somali-American journalist and researcher.
On Monday, Somalia lived up to its track record for never
re-electing an incumbent leader. President Sharif Sheikh
Ahmed lost to a political newcomer, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud,
in a landslide victory that represented a stinging
condemnation of the status quo, and an unequivocal vote for
The 275-member parliament, which also voted out a widely
reviled former speaker and replaced him with a respected
legal expert, appeared to be listening to the aspirations of
the Somali people for the first time when they picked
Mohamud over Ahmed. But the former President was gracious in
defeat, delivering a unifying exit speech at a time when the
overwhelming majority of the Somali people wanted him to
strongly support his successor and cement the optics of
I've known President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for sometime.
He's a man of integrity and humility and a social
entrepreneur who founded one of Somalia's most successful
higher education institutions: Simad University in
Mogadishu. Mohamud is also accessible and intrepid - a civil
society leader who endured Somalia's 21-year-long period of
war in the capital. Needless to say, he'll now be evaluated
more on his deeds than his personality.
On his first day at work, President Mohamud faces a
labyrinth of problems. From terrorism to piracy and rival
militias, Somalia has no shortage of tragedies. But during
his first 100 days in office, the President needs to focus
on achieving - or at least beginning - four fundamental
Declare war on corruption: The looting of public funds by
officials was the most crippling culture which decayed the
last government. A new UN report found that the highest
officials were swindling eight out of every ten dollars.
President Mahmoud must establish and empower - legally,
politically and financially - an anti-corruption commission.
The commission needs to identify and uproot the deeply
entrenched corruption syndicate across government sectors.
In the short term, the President should also accept the
Joint Financial Management Board envisaged by the
international community. The JFMB is designed to ensure
transparency and accountability of public funds, but this
tool cannot be a long term solution.
Rebuild competent state institutions: After eight years, two
Presidents, five Prime Ministers and hundreds of millions of
dollars donated by the international community, the only
institution that the now expired Transitional Federal
Government (TFG) can show its worth for is the National
Security Agency (NSA), the intelligence arm of the security
services, which is heavily bankrolled by the US, France and
other powers. Virtually all other institutions are nothing
more than a few lanky men with laptops, folders and Gmail
accounts preying upon the innocent public and unsuspecting
donors. President Mohamud needs to identify the most vital
institutions that should be rebuilt - chiefly the police,
the military and coast guard. The quantity of members of the
current police and military is not the issue, it's the
required quality that is categorically nonexistent.
Reconciliation: There are 2 entities that must be engaged
immediately. First, President Mohamud must continue the
positive talks between the TFG and the self-declared
Republic of Somaliland. The engagement with Somaliland needs
to be based on mutual respect, recognition of the human
rights atrocities committed by Mohamed Siyad Barre's
dictatorship against Somaliland and exploration of a common
path between the two brothers. Second, President Mohamud
should form a new, credible National Reconciliation
Commission whose main task is to reach out to the
nationalist elements within al-Shabaab. Some of these
figures have had a personal beef with the former president
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, whom they consider to have betrayed
them. There's a good chance that pragmatic figures will now
abandon al-Shabaab and rejoin the national dispensation, all
the while isolating the global jihadist wing.
Constitutional and governmental overhaul: The now defunct
TFG had imposed a new 'Draft Constitution' on the Somali
people with almost no public consultations. The document
institutionalizes sectarianism, sets the country on the road
to renewed, clan-based civil unrest and effectively puts the
duly elected President on a collision course with his
appointed future Prime Minister. The document grants
oversized powers to an unelected Prime Minister over the
elected president - a perennial source of infighting in the
government. The 'Constitution' also creates a convoluted and
unworkable federal structure for one of the most homogeneous
and smallest countries (population wise) in Africa.
Despite resistance from some corners, President Mohamud must
be bold in re-drafting the constitution and reducing the job
of the prime minister to a subordinate figure responsible
for coordinating cabinet business. But the president must
also recognize and appreciate the aspirations of the Somali
people who yearn for local control over their government and
the delivery of rudimentary services at the local and
regional level. He must stand firm so that he can achieve
these aspirations without creating a practically
inapplicable federal structure. The UK system of governance
provides an excellent model, where decentralized authority
ensures fair political representation both at local and
The role of external actors
For years, members of the international community have been
micromanaging the politics of Somalia from afar, often in
pursuit of wrongheaded policies. The exception to this is
the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM), which has
shown a remarkable degree of neutrality.
In order for this government to succeed, external actors
must take two steps: First, they should immediately cease
their appetite for meddling and imposing their will on
Somali governments. President Mohamud has an unrivaled
legitimacy from the Somali people. The Nairobi-based
politicians should give him space to chart his own path -
and make mistakes along the way.
Second, the international community ought to change the
culture of supporting individuals over institutions. Much of
the failure of Somalia's institutions stems from foreign
powers giving an outsized influence to unelected politicians
and armed groups. The most jarring example was handing over
the whole Roadmap Process that has brought us to this point,
to six, widely unpopular and unrepresentative politicians. A
phalanx of foreign-backed armed groups - Ahlu-Sunna Wal-Jama
and Raskamboni, among others - continues to challenge the
authority of security forces.
Finally, President Mohamud needs to begin the difficult task
of taming extremely high expectations. The monumental
challenges currently facing the country are simply too
prohibitive for one leader to tackle. He must, however,
demonstrate the will to usher in change.
A new president for Somalia
By Sally Healy
The Independent, Blog, 15 September 2012
The election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud by Somalia's
Transitional Parliament earlier this week was an unexpected
success for the hugely discredited political process in
Somalia. It could prove to be a turning point in the
country's recovery. With twenty five candidates standing,
numerous doubts about the integrity of the new parliament
and widespread reports of bribery for their votes, it was
largely assumed that the post would go to the highest
bidder. And it seemed a certainty this would be one of the
usual suspects: President Sheikh Sharif, Prime Minister Abdi
Weli or former Speaker Sherif Hassan. How nice it is to be
Hassan Sheikh's victory is a useful reminder of the
capacity of Somalia to surprise the outside world. Beyond
the facade of internationally constructed governments, we
know so little about how this country without a national
government really works. Hassan Sheikh is largely unknown
outside Somalia but he is very well known and respected in
Mogadishu where he founded and runs the Somali Institute of
Management and Development, now a university.
He has also played a leading role in the various civic and
philanthropic forums that provide the backbone of social and
economic support so essential to Somali survival. The most
important of these was a civic initiative known as the
Mogadishu Security and Stabilisation Plan that tried to reestablish
administrative structures before the rise of the
Islamic Courts. His own account of this period provides a
good insight into his political principles, above all a
consistent message that without reconciliation no real
progress can be made in rebuilding formal institutions.
I have worked with Hassan Sheikh on a couple of assignments.
He is a very engaging, thoughtful and sincerely religious
man. But what struck me most was his quiet confidence in the
future of Somalia. He believes in the strength and the
integrity of the Somali people and in their capacity to
recover and to thrive again. Perhaps this is because he has
operated for so long within Somali civil society, where such
huge achievements have been made. Maintaining that
confidence will be tougher in the grubby world of politics
where we have become conditioned to expect failure.
Needless to say, the problems he will face are enormous. Al
Shabab remains the immediate challenge in South Central
Somalia, although it is contained for the time being by
AMISOM forces. The formation of national security forces to
replace AMISOM is still at a rudimentary stage. Neither the
long drawn out political 'transition' (in progress since
2004) nor the hastily concocted constitution has resolved
the big questions about Somalia's political future,
including the nature of the federal system and the
relationship with Somaliland. There is no legacy from the
TFG in terms of government structures, institutions or even
the beginnings of a functioning civil service.
Hassan Sheikh nonetheless starts with some important assets.
He is his own man. He is not part of the discredited
political establishment. He lives in Mogadishu and has not
been plucked from the Somali diaspora. He is not in the
pocket of any foreign power. The political party he formed
in April 2011 has provided a structure and network of
supporters that will certainly have been working through
informal clan channels to deliver this unexpected election
victory. He offers a new approach to solving Somalia's
problems of government, first and foremost a political
approach, with reconciliation as its starting point.
Some credit is due to the international actors. They have
stuck with grim determination to their "road map" to end the
transition and put an end to the self-?serving extensions of
the TFG mandate. Whatever its shortcomings, the process to
end the transition - the expansion of parliament, the
involvement of clans, the insistence on the timetable and
the unavoidable election - created just enough political
space for a credible Somali leader to slip through.
Hassan Sheikh will undoubtedly face enmity from the people
who have profiteered for so long from Somali politics. He
may be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task he confronts.
But if he can tap into and draw strength from those enduring
civic networks that he has helped to nurture, he stands a
better chance of succeeding than any of his predecessors.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud: Somalia's new president profiled
September 11, 2012
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's dogged determination not to give up
on Somalia despite years of conflict, warlordism, piracy and
Islamist insurgency has finally paid off.
The peace activist and educational campaigner remained in
Somalia throughout the 21-year civil war unlike many other
He defeated former President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in a
run-off with a convincing majority of Somali MPs.
Both men hail from the Hawiye clan - one of the country's
main groups based in the capital, Mogadishu. But, unlike his
predecessor, clan - which influences all walks of life in
Somalia - was not the driving force behind Mr Mohamud's
Analysts say it is the fact that the academic had not
dirtied himself with politics or clan conflicts that set him
out from the rest.
Instead, he has won respect for his work in civil society
and education, being one of the founders of Mogadishu's
Simad university, where he was a lecturer and served as its
first dean for 10 years until he resigned to enter politics.
One of his former students who graduated in 2004 told the
BBC he was an easy-going tutor, not quick to anger and an
"He could entertain us for two hours during lectures on
management, making jokes and people laugh," he told the BBC
Born in central Hiran province in 1955, he grew up in a
middle-class neighbourhood of Mogadishu and graduated from
the Somali National University with a technical engineering
degree in 1981.
His contemporaries say he was quiet and unassuming and went
on to become a teacher before doing a post-graduate degree
in Bhopal University, India.
On his return, he joined the Ministry of Education to
oversee a teach-training scheme funded by Unesco.
When the central government collapsed in 1991, he joined
Unicef as an education officer, travelling around south and
central Somalia, which he said enabled him to see "the
magnitude of the collapse in education sector".
Three years later, he established one of the first primary
schools in Mogadishu since the war broke out.
He also has links with al-Islah, the Somali branch of the
Muslim brotherhood which was vital in rebuilding the
education system in the wake of the clan conflicts.
It set up many schools with Muslim curriculums similar to
those in Sudan and Egypt but is strongly opposed to alShabab.
Described as a moderate Islamist, Mr Mohamud is also said to
have been close to the Union of Islamist Courts (UIC).
His followers say he simply supported any activity aiming to
restore peace and stability.
The UIC was a grouping of local Islamic courts, initially
set up by businessmen to establish some form of order in the
lawless state, which brought relative peace to the country
in 2006, before Ethiopia invaded and overthrew them -
frightened by the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab militia that was
gaining power in the courts.
During the 1990s, Mr Mohamud became very involved in civil
society groups and people close to him say he is known for
resolving clan disputes.
His first real success on this score was his participation
in negotiations in 1997 that oversaw the removal of the
infamous "Green Line" which divided Mogadishu into two
sections controlled by rival clan warlords.
Described by some in the early 1990s as the "cancer of
Mogadishu", the division made life difficult for city
residents and politicians alike.
In 2001, he joined the Centre for Research and Dialogue as a
researcher in post-conflict reconstruction - a body
sometimes criticised as being too closely affiliated to the
West - and has worked as a consultant to various UN bodies
and the transitional government.
As a regular participant on the influential weekly BBC
Somali service debating programme, he underlined the
importance of including civil society groups in the "roadmap
to peace" which eventually led to his election.
Married to two wives and with several children, some of whom
live in Somalia and others abroad, his motivation seems to
come from wanting to build a future for the younger
Last year, he set up the Peace and Development Party (PDP),
which he made clear was above clan politics.
The BBC's Daud Aweis in Mogadishu says Mr Mohamud is a man
who likes to consult others.
"In the various Somali conferences I met him, he showed the
attitude of being able and willing to talk to everyone," he
Who is Hassan Sheikh Mohamud?
- Born in central Hiran region in 1955
- From the major Hawiye clan
- Married, speaks Somali and English
- Linked to al-Islah, Somalia's branch of the Muslim
- Studied engineering at the Somali National University and
became a lecturer in 1981
- Five years later went to India to study, obtaining an MBA
from Bhopal University
- Stayed in Somalia during the civil war, working as a
consultant with non-governmental groups, UN bodies and on
several peace initiatives
- Helped set up the Simad University in 1999, and was its
dean for 10 years
- Founded his Peace and Development Party (PDP) in 2011
- Elected an MP in August 2012
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