MOGADISHU, Sep 11 – The surprise election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as Somalia’s president may usher in a new era for the war-torn nation, analysts said on Tuesday, warning that the new leader faces multiple challenges.
“We’ve definitely seen a vote by the parliamentarians for a change of direction,” Ahmed Soliman, Horn of Africa researcher at Chatham House, told AFP.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an academic and activist, won 190 votes against 79 for the outgoing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who had been seen as the favourite.
J. Peter Pham of the Washington-based Atlantic Council noted that “by all accounts the newly chosen president of the so-called government of Somalia is an admirable individual who is well known and respected by local and international non-governmental organisations.”
But he warned “one must avoid the temptation – already succumbed to by some stakeholders – of allowing enthusiasm of the moment to cloud the realities of what actually happened.”
“The parliamentarians’ did not so much vote for Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as against the incompetence and corruption of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed,” he said, adding that the lawmakers who voted “were hardly legitimate representatives of the Somali people.”
“The MPs didn’t want another four or five years of Sharif and it’s been very clearly displayed by 70 percent of votes going to the new president,” Chatham House’s Soliman agreed.
Sharif, who had seemed confident of re-election, was dogged by allegations of corruption during his tenure.
Soliman said it was too early to say whether the new president will be able to consolidate his position with the parliamentarians “and move forward and build a cabinet.”
Pham said Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will be presiding over “an entity more known for stealing foreign aid than using it for the good of the Somali people.
Pham said Hassan Sheikh Mohamud will be presiding over “an entity more known for stealing foreign aid than using it for the good of the Somali people.”
“While the new president may well want to change this, he will have to fight power interests, both old (the functionaries who have carved power bases for themselves) and new (people who spent tens of thousands of dollars last month to become parliamentarians will want to recover their investments).”
For Abdirashid Hashi, an analyst with International Crisis Group in Nairobi, the new president’s resounding victory was also “a protest vote” against Sharif.
Hassan “is very passionate about Somalia,” Hashi said.
“He has a good feel for what’s going on, on the ground,” he said.
A vendor on the streets of the capital echoed that sentiment.