Somalia’s new president
Sep 15th 2012 | MOGADISHU
THE election of a civil-rights campaigner as Somalia’s new president has engendered a rare wave of hope in a country that has had no proper government since 1991, when its military dictator, Siad Barre, was overthrown in a coup. “It’s the biggest opportunity for the country for a generation,” says a Western diplomat involved in the process. The new head of state, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is being lauded as an honest man of peace and pragmatism.
But the dangers and uncertainties of his job were starkly illustrated only two days after his election when he survived an assassination attempt in a hotel where he was meeting Kenya’s foreign minister in Mogadishu, the capital. A suicide-bomber belonging to Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militia, known as the Shabab, blew himself up outside the hotel, killing several people, including a soldier in the force run by the African Union (AU) that has been putting the Shabab on the back foot.
Despite this attack, a steady improvement in security is another cause for hope. In the past few months the Shabab has been pretty well chased out of Mogadishu, though it can still launch sporadic terrorist actions. At the same time Ethiopian and Kenyan troops have been hammering the Shabab from the west and south. An AU force recently captured Merka, a port south of Mogadishu. The country’s second city, the port of Kismayu, the Shabab’s last major stronghold, was bombarded earlier this month by Kenyan troops. If it fell, it would be a big fillip for the new president.
Mr Hassan was not chosen by universal franchise but by a newly established 275-member parliament that was in turn handpicked a month ago by a conclave of clan elders. In a first round of voting, in which 22 candidates competed, Mr Hassan came second to the incumbent, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but prevailed over him easily with 190 votes to 79 in a run-off.
Diplomats heaved a sigh of relief at the demise of the free-spending and widely mistrusted Mr Sharif. It is eagerly hoped that the new parliament will be better than its woeful predecessors and will soon choose a plausible government. Previous transitional ones were picked in foreign conference rooms by international fixers—with uniformly bad results.
Read the complete story at the Economist.
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