MOGADISHU, Somalia, Feb 22 – Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed sought to downplay soaring expectations of his new administration at his inauguration Wednesday, warning it would take decades to fix the nation’s many ills.
“Our government is facing so many challenges and even though I will be doing my best, I also want to make clear for the Somali public that due to limited resources regarding economy and forces of security, what we could do is going to be limited,” he said.
The president, widely known by his nickname Farmajo, officially took office last week, however his inauguration was held Wednesday in the presence of several regional leaders.
The ceremony took place 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.
Farmajo’s election has been greeted with elation in a country desperate for a turnaround from decades of conflict and anarchy.
However he warned that there would be no quick fixes.
“Your problems were created during twenty years of conflict and droughts. A solution will need more than another twenty years,” he said.
“I directly request the Somali public to help work in resolving the basic essential problems in the coming years. If we address those the rest will be dealt with by the next governments,” he said.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as delegations from Kuwait and Egypt, attended the ceremony.
In a sign of the challenges facing Farmajo’s administration, a car bomb at a busy market killed 39 people on Sunday.
– ‘Somalia is united’ –
The president has promised a $100,000 (95,000-euro) reward for information on who carried out the attack. Shabaab has not claimed the attack but it bears all the hallmarks of the group.
Farmajo said that insecurity, as well as a cycle of droughts which currently have parts of the country at risk of famine, were the main challenges facing the new administration.
“Al-Shabaab killed about 900 innocent Somalis most of them children, women and elderly during attacks and blasts last year … I am telling you that killing a number of people and destroying property will not deter Somalis,” said Farmajo.
“Somalia is united today and we are telling the misguided Somali youngsters to abstain from detonating themselves into their people and not to destroy the property of their country.”
He said “we are ready to welcome those misguided youths with open hands and to provide them with incentives to start up their business.”
Somalis fondly remember Farmajo’s 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.