Mogadishu on lockdown for president’s inauguration

February 22, 2017 12:13 pm
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Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will be sworn-in at a ceremony in the highly-secured airport zone to avoid an attack by Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab group © AFP/File / MUSTAFA HAJI ABDINUR

, Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb 22 – Somalia’s capital Mogadishu was under security lockdown Wednesday, with roads closed and commercial flights cancelled ahead of the inauguration of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

Widely known by his nickname Farmajo, the president will be sworn-in at a ceremony held in the highly-secured airport zone to avoid an attack by the Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab group which has threatened a “vicious war” against the new government.

“All major roads and streets inside and outside the capital were closed down last night, movement is restricted and only the vehicles of government officials are allowed to move,” police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP.

“This is for security purposes and all commercial flights are cancelled today so that only aircrafts carrying the delegation are allowed.”

Schools and businesses were also closed in a similar lockdown to one seen two weeks ago when lawmakers gathered in an airport hangar to elect Farmajo.

Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as delegations from Kuwait and Egypt, have already arrived, with other regional leaders also expected.

Farmajo has already taken office following a handover ceremony last week during which Shabaab militants fired mortar shells near the presidential palace, killing two children at a nearby school.

In a sign of the challenges facing his administration, a car bomb at a busy market killed 39 people on Sunday.

The president has promised a $100,000 (95,000-euro) reward for information on who carried out the attack.

His election was met with elation among Somalis, who fondly remember his brief stint as prime minister in 2010-11 which showed him to be a no-nonsense leader set on improving governance and cracking down on corruption.

The Shabaab was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and violent anarchy.

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