Somalia has a new president: Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who is better known by his nickname, meaning “Cheese.”
Lawmakers elected Mohamed, 54, to be the country’s new leader in a unique election held within the confines of Mogadishu’s international airport.
Known as Farmajo, a play on the Italian word formaggio for cheese, he reportedly owes the moniker to a penchant his father acquired for cheese while Somalia was under Italian colonial rule.
Somalia’s newly-elected President Farmajo, flanked by outgoing president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (left) addresses lawmakers after winning the vote at the airport in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on February 8.FEISAL OMAR/REUTERS
Farmajo was an outside bet for most observers. Despite having had some experience in the Somali foreign ministry in the 1980s—before the state collapsed into civil war and clan conflict in 1991—and serving as prime minister for just over seven months between November 2010 and June 2011, Farmajo has spent most of the previous few decades in the United States, living and working in the city of Buffalo in New York state.
The election was not based on the one-person, one-vote system of Western democracies: Instead, 135 clan elders had chosen an electorate of 14,000, which in turn elected around 330 MPs and senators, then the latter group voted on who should become president. The process was allegedly marred by corruption, withsome $20 million illicitly changing hands through vote buying and selling and other forms of bribery, according to the New York Times.
Sharmarke and Sharif dropped out of the presidential election in the first and second rounds of voting respectively, leaving Mohamud to face off against Farmajo. After the outsider took 184 votes to the incumbent’s 97 in the second round, Mohamud conceded defeat in the third round, leaving Farmajo as the victor.
Born in the southern Somali region of Gedo, Farmajo spent his early life in Mogadishu. Before the election, he had been living in the United States since 1985.
The president joined the Somali foreign ministry in 1982, according to a New York Times profile, and was transferred to Washington in 1985, where he sought asylum after criticizing the government in Mogadishu. He built his life in Buffalo and most recently worked for the New York State Transportation Department, ensuring that the department complied with equal opportunities policies and avoided discrimination.
A dual U.S.-Somali national, he fell into his role as Somali prime minister after an unplanned meeting with Sharif in 2010. Despite his short term in office, Farmajo gained widespread public support for several innovations, including halving the size of the cabinet and seeking to increase transparency in government. After he was forced to resign under the terms of a deal which extended the mandate of the transitional government at the time, protests broke out across the country, including in Mogadishu, where the interior minister was killed by a suicide bombing at his home.
Farmajo’s return to Somali politics was welcomed by many on the streets of Mogadishu after his election victory was announced. “He is going to be the president of the entire country,” Ismael Gure, a Mogadishu businessman, told USA Today. The president himself hailed the win as “a victory for Somalia and the Somalis.”
But with a raft of challenges facing the new leader—including a raging insurgencyperpetrated by al-Shabab, a devastating drought and embedded corruption—the man with the cheesy nickname certainly has a lot on his plate.read more...
Holding high portraits of the man who pledges to bring the nation together, Somalis in the capital hailed their new president Thursday, singing in joy while soldiers fired weapons skyward in celebration.
Such scenes are unusual in the city, where security is a constant concern due to attacks from Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants who control many regions of the country.
After decades of corruption and strife the incoming leader, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, faces a huge task rebuilding a battered state.
But those who took to the streets have placed their faith in the 55-year-old former prime minister nicknamed Farmajo (from formaggio, or “cheese” in Italian).
“This man will not only bring good governance but he will also unite the Somalis, he is the president of the people and we support him,” said local resident Idris Sharif of the new leader.
Farmajo served as premier for only eight months between 2010 and 2011, before being ousted. However several steps he took, such as ensuring regular pay for soldiers, were well received and many protested against his removal.
Soldiers and police were among those optimistic about Farmajo’s victory after incumbent president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud acknowledged defeat after a second round of voting by lawmakers on Wednesday.
“If you look back at what he did during the short time he was prime minister, I think he could be the right guy,” Abdulahi Duale, a grocer on southern Mogadishu’s Maka Al-Mukarama road told AFP.
Farmajo, from the Darod clan, in his victory speech spelled out the wrongs that have to be righted for Somalia to reverse its failed state reputation.
“This is the beginning of unity for the Somali nation, the beginning of the fight against Shabaab and corruption,” he said, in a message that resonates.
“People are very excited… hoping the new president will at least make sure the security forces get their salaries. If he succeeds in that then it will help the fight against Al-Shabaab,” said Said Ali, another shopkeeper in the capital.
- ‘Wait and see’ -
But not everyone shared the enthusiasm and hopes of reform.
“I did not support him during the election campaign,” Jawahir Ali, a nursing student at university, told AFP.
“Somalis are full of sentiment which makes them blindly support Farmajo but let’s wait, I’m sure time will come when they start cursing him,” she said. “Many people think he will bring changes but let’s wait and see what changes will come.”
Farmajo also ran for president in 2012, the first election in the country since 1991 though only 135 clan elders picked the lawmakers who went on to elect the president.
In 2016 Somalis were promised a one-person, one-vote poll but political infighting and insecurity saw the plan ditched for a limited vote running six months behind schedule.
In the end only 14,000 delegates were allowed to vote for the lawmakers who picked the president. Some citizens spoke of pitfalls that lie ahead for Farmajo, pointing to Somalia’s clan structure. While he is of the Darod clan the man he defeated is from the Hawiye, a clan that has had several recent presidents.
“We have to wait and see who he is going to pick as prime minister,” said Mohamed Adan, a school teacher.
“The Hawiye clan lost the presidency yet they are the dominant clan in Mogadishu and they could become an obstacle if they feel disengaged.
“Some violent politics can exploit clan policies… and this could be more dangerous than any other situation,” he added.
Despite Farmajo’s win, the underlying reality is that the federal government controls only part of the country, helped by a 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) force. The Shabaab holds large areas in the centre and south, and in the past 12 months they have multiplied their murderous attacks in the capital and at Amisom bases.
Somalia is also suffering its worst drought since 2010-2011, affecting an estimated three million people.
Farmajo, however, will start the job with his stock high according to Rashid Abdi, Horn of Africa programme director at International Crisis Group, which monitors conflict.
“The reactions we see in Somalia show he is very popular, he has credibility, also across the clan divide. But being popular is one thing, and being efficient is a very different one,” he said.read more...
A former prime minister who holds dual Somali-United States citizenship has been elected Somalia’s President, declaring a new “era of unity” as he took on the daunting task of bringing the long-chaotic country its first fully functioning central government in a quarter-century.
Fears of attacks by the Islamic extremists from the group al-Shabaab dogged yesterday’s historic vote, which was limited to lawmakers instead of the population at large, with members of the upper and lower houses of Parliament casting ballots at a heavily guarded former air force base in the capital, Mogadishu.
“This victory belongs to the Somali people,” the newly elected President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, declared after taking the oath of office. “This is the beginning of the era of unity, the democracy of Somalia and the beginning of the fight against corruption,” he said, adding: “There is a daunting task ahead of me, and I know that.”
Thousands of jubilant Somalis poured into the streets, chanting the new President’s name as cheering soldiers fired into the air.
“Somalia will be another Somalia soon,” said Ahmed Ali, a police officer celebrating in the crowd.
Incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded defeat after two rounds of voting, saying: “History was made. We have taken this path to democracy.”
Mohamud held a slight lead over Farmajo after an initial round of voting yesterday that included a field of 21 candidates. But Farmajo easily won the second round contested among three candidates, with 184 votes to Mohamud’s 97.
The new President represents a generation of Somalis scattered abroad by conflict who cautiously have begun to return to help their homeland recover.
Most of the candidates in the election held dual citizenship.
Farmajo, who is in his mid-50s and holds degrees from the State University of New York in Buffalo, was Prime Minister for eight months before leaving the post in 2011. He had lived in the US since 1985, when he was sent there with Somalia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
Somalia began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and al-Shabaab attacks, along with famine, left this Horn of Africa country of some 12 million people shattered.read more...
‘Someone tell Mugabe’: Obama’s post-presidency pics rile Zimbabweans
Harare – Those pictures of Baracks Obama enjoying himself on holiday with Richard Branson?
Zimbabweans are looking at them and wishing their 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe would take a leaf out of the former US leader’s book and hand over power.
“Someone needs to tell Mugabe that life after presidency isn’t so bad,” said @Dobie_M in a widely-retweeted tweet.
Read more on this story here
Zim protest pastor Mawarire: I’m happy to be out of jail
Harare – A Zimbabwean pastor arrested for organising anti-government protests says he is happy to be out of prison after being released on bail.
Evan Mawarire also said after his release on Thursday that he is looking forward to some rest and time with his family.
For more on this story click here
Gucci Grace for parliament? Mugabe’s wife may have cunning plan
Harare – Why would Gucci-loving, jet-setting Grace Mugabe want to be a humble MP in Zimbabwe’s parliament?
It’s hard to imagine the imperious Zimbabwean first lady jostling with rowdy opposition Members of Parliament on a daily basis. But that’s the future one local newspaper is suggesting.
Some Zimbabweans have reacted with exasperation to a report in the privately-owned Newsday on Wednesday suggesting Grace Mugabe could be planning to contest a parliamentary seat in Harare in next year’s general elections so that she can get into her husband’s cabinet.
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EXCLUSIVE: Joice Mujuru ‘is not a leader, we’re fed up of her dictatorial tendencies’
Harare – Fired lieutenants of Zimbabwe’s ex-vice president Joice Mujuru have hit back at their former boss, saying that she cannot sack them from the opposition Zimbabwe People First (ZimPF), as they are elders of the party.
Mujuru announced on Wednesday, during a press conference, that she had expelled seven of her key allies from her ZimPF party, which she formed following her dismissal from both the ruling Zanu-PF and government.
She accused them of being “agents” of President Robert Mugabe‘s regime and that they were derailing the struggle for the democratisation of the southern African country.
For more on this story click here
Somalia’s new leader vows to rebuild failed state
Mogadishu – Supporters of Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a veteran diplomat and former prime minister, hope he can be the answer to corruption and extremism in the world’s most notorious failed state.
The 55-year-old father of four, better known as Farmajo, holds both American and Somali citizenship, and was elected after a six-month voting process marred by widespread allegations of vote-buying and corruption.
Read more on this story here
Gambia to reverse its ICC withdrawal
Dakar – A European Union official says Gambia’s new president confirms the West African country will re-join the International Criminal Court, after the previous leader began the formal process of withdrawal last year.
The EU commissioner for international co-operation and development, Neven Mimica, announced the development on Thursday on Twitter after meeting new President Adama Barrow. “Excellent news,” Mimica said.
Gambia’s former leader Yahya Jammeh formally notified the UN secretary-general it would withdraw from the ICC. Withdrawal comes a year after notification.
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In multiple congressional testimonies last year, then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson hyped the action he was taking–under a law signed by President Barack Obama–to deny visa-free travel to the United States to citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who had visited Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia or Libya.
“Foreign terrorist travel, the prospect of foreign terrorist travel to our homeland keeps me up at night,” Johnson, for example, testified in the House Homeland Security Committee on July 14, 2014.
“We have enhanced security around our Visa Waiver Program,” Johnson said.
“With the help of this Congress last year,” he said, “we now have the ability to deny visa-free travel to those who have traveled to Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, and as a result of the three countries I added to the list because of this new legislative authority, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.”
When President Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 27 temporarily suspending entry to the United States for most—but not all—nationals of these same seven countries, the New York Times immediately described them as “Muslim countries” and “Muslim-majority countries.”
However, in February 2016, when Johnson announced he was using the discretionary power he had under a law Obama had signed in December 2015 to add Yemen, Somalia and Libya to the list of the four other countries already covered under that law, the New York Times published a story listing all seven countries that made no mention of religion whatsoever.
The Times did indicate in that 2016 story that the Obama administration policy directed at people who had traveled to those seven countries was aimed at stopping terrorists from entering the United States.
That Times story–headlined “U.S. Expands Restrictions on Visa-Waiver Program Visitors”–was posted on Feb. 18, 2016. It began:
“The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday added three countries to a growing list that would prohibit people who have visited those nations in the past five years from entering the United States without a visa.
“The new countries are Libya, Somalia and Yemen. The department indicated that other nations could be added.
“The Obama administration previously announced changes to the visa-waiver program that would make it harder for travelers to enter the United States from Europe if they had dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or had visited one of those countries in the last five years.”
The Times story went on to say: “The changes to the visa-waiver program come after the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people and wounded 368. Because the attackers were all European citizens who were eligible to receive visa waivers, some lawmakers and counterterrorism officials feared that terrorists could exploit the program and travel to the United States to commit similar attacks.”
When Trump issued his executive order on Jan. 27, temporarily suspending travel to the U.S. for most nationals of the same seven countries targeted by the Obama administration’s action, the New York Times published a story headlined: “Trump Bars Refugees and Citizens of 7 Muslim Countries.”
That same day, the Times published a story file from Tehran with the headline: “In Iran, Shock and Bewilderment Over Trump Visa Crackdown.” The first two paragraphs of this story said:
“Families, businesspeople, athletes and tourists from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa found their travel plans—and even their futures—in a state of suspension on Friday after President Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring thousands from obtaining visas to travel to the United States.
“The order is expected to freeze almost all travel to the United States by citizens from the Muslim-majority countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for at least 90 days. Three of those countries are considered sponsors of terrorism (Iran, Sudan and Syria), and three are designated as countries of concern (Libya, Somalia, and Yemen).”
In 2016, then-DHS Secretary Johnson had on seven occasions submitted written testimony to congressional committees highlighting the administration’s move to deny visa-free travel to nationals of VWP countries who had traveled to the seven countries that the New York Times–after Trump’s executive order–would describe as “Muslim-majority countries.”
On February 24, 2016, less than a week after adding Libya, Somalia and Yemen to Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria on the Obama administration’s no-visa-waivers-for-visitors list, Johnson testified in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
“We are enhancing measures to detect and prevent travel to this country by foreign terrorist fighters,” Johnson said in his written testimony to that Senate panel.
“Last week, under the authority given me by the new law, I also added three countries–Libya, Yemen and Somalia–to a list that prohibits anyone who has visited these nations in the past five years from traveling to the U.S. without a visa,” Johnson said.
That same day, Johnson repeated these exact words in written testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security.
He would then essentially repeat these words in written testimony submit to theSenate Homeland Security Committee on March 8, 2016, to the House Homeland Security Committee on March 16, 2016, to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 30, 2016, to the House Homeland Security Committee on July 14, 2016; and to the House Homeland Security Committee again on Sept. 27, 2016.
The executive order President Donald Trump signed on January 27—“Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”—does not cite any religious sect or denomination.
It does suspend–for 90 days–entry to the United States for most visitors from the 7 countries cited by Secretary Johnson–Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia or Libya–while the government reviews its visa screening procedures.
It similarly suspends the U.S. refugee admission program for 120 days. And it suspends entry for most Syrian nationals indefinitely while measures are put in place “to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.”
It also calls on the secretary of State, in consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, “to prioritize refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality.”
This provision could apply, for example, to both Syrian Christians and Syrian Shiite Muslims—both of whom are religious minorities in Syria and both of whom Congress has declared are targeted for genocide by the Islamic State.read more...