Somali lawmakers elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud as the country’s next president, marking an end to a transitional administration that improved security in the capital, Mogadishu, even as it failed to end more than two decades of conflict.
Mohamoud, who is 56 and has a master’s degree in education from Bhopal University in India, obtained 190 votes and the incumbent, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, received 79, Speaker Mohamed Sheikh Osman Jawari said at a ceremony yesterday in Mogadishu. The result was greeted with celebratory gunfire in districts across the city.
“I know him personally and he can change the country into a peaceful” nation, Mahad Salad, a lawmaker, said in an interview. “We are exhausted with warlords and corrupt governments. We need change.”
Fifteen transitional governments in Somalia have failed to stem clan-based fighting and an al-Qaeda-linked insurgency that began when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. The absence of an effective central administration, police and courts has allowed piracy off the country’s Indian Ocean coast, kidnappings, and corruption to thrive, and stunted economic development.
“This is a significant moment for Somalia, and an important step towards a renewed political process,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement in London. “Somalia’s leaders must now work together to build a more representative and transparent system, tackle corruption and strengthen security and stability.”
The new government will take power with the benefit of recent security gains by African Union, Somali and Ethiopian soldiers who have seized pockets of territory in a campaign that has weakened al-Shabaab militants. The troops forced insurgents out of Mogadishu a year ago and are closing in on Kismayo, a port city that generates a large portion of al-Shabaab’s income, mostly from contraband, sugar and charcoal trading.
Mohamoud previously worked as an education officer for the United Nations International Children’s Fund from 1993 to 1995, and in 1999 was the co-founder of the Somali Institute of Management and Administration, where he was the dean until 2010, according to his resume. He also worked with groups including the Center for Research and Dialogue, a civil society group, and the International Peace Building Alliance, a Geneva-based organization.
The president, like his predecessor, is a member of the Hawiye clan, one of Somalia’s four main lineages that are bound by the constitution to share top political positions.