Somalia turns a new page of hope after its new president was elected

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By Roble Bashir

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected on Monday to a four-year presidential term. There are plans to hold nationwide elections after his mandate ends in 2016. By then, every citizen will have the opportunity to vote for the candidate he or she supports.  Even so, such a goal is  a challenging task to attain in just over four years.

President Mohamud was an active member of civil society organisations since the collapse of  the government in 1991. He has taken part in several social development projects. The newly elected head of state used to work for UNICEF in Somalia and was dean of one of the local universities of Mogadishu before he became the leader of the Peace and Development Party (PDP).

What makes this government different from previous ones?

President Mohamud’s election is  an important change for all Somalis since it puts to end eight years of transitional rule, which impeded governments to function properly.

It ends as well the interference by neighbouring countries in Somali’s internal affairs. This meddling by foreign powers has been one of the biggest obstacles in getting the country back on its feet after two decades of civil war. In fact, interim governments were formed outside the country. This made Somalis sceptical that the country’s best interests were being served. President Mohamud’s government is the first one ever elected by parliament inside the country since the early 1990s. The is not an interim government but a permanent one approved nationally.  This is very important matter to remember.

There are other factors that support the newly elected president of Somalia. Most warlord leaders have been disarmed and some are members of the new parliament. They aren’t a threat to stability as in previous transitional governments, when they had their own separate militia groups and put barriers against the government whenever they saw fit. This government controls harbours and airports, which are vital to the economy and permit foreign aid to enter the country.

The new constitution was approved by the elders.

The new constitution gives more powers to the new president to exercise his authority. This is another factor that could help President Mohamud to tackle the challenges the country faces.

The threat of Al-shabab lessens

There are many reasons that give more confidence and hope that the new government will succeed in its aims. Most areas of the capital  and surrounding towns are now under the control of government troops with the backing of African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) forces.  Al-shabab’s influence has weakened after it lost a number of battles that forced it to give up control of many strategic towns and regions of the country. Al-shabab lost many economic resources as well such as harbours and export tax revenues from charcoal, when the USA banned this year such exports to Middle Eastern states like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This was a huge setback for Al-shabab and undermined its influence in the country and its ability to finance its war.

The weakening of this powerful group in Somalia will eventually help the new president to restore peace and stability. Of course, re-building Somalia is an ongoing process that can only happen when the country has a powerful enough army.  ”When the national armed forces take control of the whole country, we will no longer need troops from Africa, ” President Mohamud promised during his campaign.