Hassan Sheik Mohamud was elected as Somalia’s new president on Monday, chosen by members of the country’s newly assembled Parliament.
Known as a political activist and chairman of the moderate Peace and Development Party, Mohamud will be tasked with stabilizing the newly implemented government that replaced the transitional administration that had been in control since the turn of the century. Somalia has suffered through over two decades of civil war and political turmoil since the early nineties, and has gained international support in its recovery. Mohamud defeated 22 candidates in two rounds of voting in the country’s capital of Mogadishu.
“I hope that the problems of Somalia will come to an end and Somalia will now turn a new page and that page will be written with good history rather than bad history,” Mohamud, 56, said after his victory. He defeated Sheik Sharik Sheik, the president of transitional government, 190-79 in a head-to-head runoff during the second round of voting. Mohamud is now faced with the task of establishing a wider administration beneath him to help maintain control of the war-torn nation. This will include the appointment of a prime minister, among other things.
Mohamud is viewed within the country as a relative political newcomer, but had worked as an education officer for UNICEF and as the dean of SIMAD University. Having entered into Somali politics for the first time in 2011, Mohamud seemed an unlikely choice for the office. However, it might have been his distance from Somalia’s political figure heads and militant groups that won him the job.
“People are enthusiastic about him because he is neither from warlord groups nor from diaspora,” Somali elder Aradrus Muuse Ahmed told the Los Angeles Times. “I believe that he understands the urgent need for grassroots security and stability.”
A spokesman for Al Shabab, the Al-Qaeda linked militia that occupies some of Somalia’s cities, spoke out against Mohamud’s election, claiming that the new president represented Western influences. Al Shabab fighters had occupied Mogadishu until August of last year, but retain a strong presence.
Clashes with militant groups within the country are just a handful of the challenges that Mohamud will face as he takes office.