On the morning of May 11th, a suicide bomber hit a checkpoint erected at KM4, near the Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu, Somalia; 4 people were killed and 8 injured. The event was claimed by Al Shabaab, the terrorist network remains determined to strike at the preparations for the last stage of the long electoral process. A curfew had been imposed in the capital, which helped to avert further security incidents. The vote was thus concluded in the late evening of May 15th, with the two branches of Parliament meeting for the presidential vote.
A total of 39 candidates took part in the voting, reduced to 36 before the actual start of voting and to 4 in the second round, when a simple majority of votes was sufficient. Here, outgoing President Farmajo contested with favourite Sheikh Mohamud, his predecessor, former Prime Minister Khaire and Puntland President Deni. Mohamud had already secured support from some of Farmajo’s constituencies, and at the news of Mohamud’s victory, on the third ballot, with 214 votes, his jubilant supporters from the Hawiye clan took to the streets of the capital despite the continuing curfew. The hope is that a long phase of uncertainty and instability will come to an end, even in the knowledge that he was ‘the lesser evil’ compared to candidates who certainly did not represent any real novelty compared to the country’s unfruitful political past.
In his inaugural speech, the new President – an academic – did, however, use conciliatory tones and promised ‘the beginning of an era of unity’ with soothing gestures towards the clans and federal states. The hope of observers is that he will learn from past mistakes. These include, above all, his lack of incisiveness against the corruption that had been lurking in his administration and a certain inability to mediate between rival groups.
Farmajo acknowledged the victory of his ‘brother’ Mohamud and used in turn friendly tones, even joking about the ‘boring’ job that falls to the President. This argues for a lowering of political tensions, at a time that was felt by many as urgent. Indeed, the challenges remain complex for all, starting with security and the threats of Al Shabaab and the management of the drought that threatens to turn into famine.
The relationship with the international community is also central to the functioning of the institutions and it will be up to Mohamud to rebuild a trust that has been frayed over the past year. A better relationship with the presidents of the federal states, i.e. between the clans that express them, is also needed to climb back up the slope of poverty. In this respect too, the Farmajo presidency had used the theme of nationalism in an improper way, ending up reinforcing certain centrifugal drives. Of note is the trajectory of Somaliland, which the US Ambassador to Somalia Andre and the Head of AFRICOM (US Military Command for Africa) Towsend visited for meetings with Somaliland President Bihi in Hargeisa (May 12th).
Finally, a mention must go to PM Roble, whom some see as the winner of this election process that he defended against the outgoing President himself. His accumulated merit may earn him credit for a future election in a more pacified Somalia, with a view to 2026.