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Reuters/Mogadishu

 

Thousands of Somalis fired guns in the air, cheered atop military vehicles and slaughtered camels yesterday to celebrate the election of anti-corruption campaigner Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed as president.
Protected from Islamist attack inside the heavily fortified airport compound, lawmakers voted on Wednesday to elect the former US government worker, beating incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud whose government repeatedly faced corruption scandals.
“Please fight corruption as you promised when you were campaigning for president,” said Mohamed Jamaa, a resident of Mogadishu, who had joined crowds in the capital.
Western donors welcomed his election. The European Union urged him to tackle corruption, while the United States called the transition a “step forward” despite concerns about irregularities.
Opponents had accused each other of vote buying.
In the central Somali towns of Dhusamareb and Guriel, a region where many are now facing a severe food crisis because of drought, the local authorities slaughtered camels and goats to hand out the meat to the poor.
Mohamed, a former prime minister better known in Somalia by his nickname “Farmajo” due to his love of cheese as a child, told lawmakers shortly after his election that his “core value is justice, to help the poor people”.
But the dual US-Somali citizen, who worked for years in the New York State Department of Transport, faces an uphill task.
The aid-dependent state faces an imminent food crisis, empty coffers and an Islamist insurgency.
Abdirashid Hashi, an political analyst who worked in Mohamed’s cabinet when he was prime minister between 2010 and 2011, called him “a populist politician, saying all the right stuff the demoralised citizens of Somalia want to hear.”
“His detractors charge that it is a bit naive thinking that populism can undo Somalia’s quarter-century quagmire,” he said. “Somalia’s problems are much bigger than one individual.”
Soldiers and members of the security forces at the sharp end of the fight against Shebaab militants are among the most worryingly demoralised parts of society, constantly complaining that meagre salaries are often delayed or not even paid.
Some remember fondly the new president’s period as prime minister, when they say wages were paid on time. “We never missed one month’s salary when Farmajo was prime minister,” said Colonel Ali Abdirahman, a senior police officer.
The new president said he planned to get down to work immediately.
When he left the airport on Wednesday night, he told cheering crowds to return to the safety of their homes in a city that is often attacked by Shebaab militants.

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Mogadishu (HOL) – Presidential candidate Abdirahman Mohamed Farole has announced that he is dropping out from the presidential race, just hours ahead of tomorrow’s election.

Mr. Farole formally submitted his letter of resignation to the electoral commission which confirmed that he has withdrawn from the presidential contest

In a press conference in the capital, Abdirahman Farole cited persistent interference as the reason for quitting the race. He urged Presidential hopefuls who remain in the race to keep the interest of the Somali people at heart.

In his exit speech, he criticized the makeup of the National Leadership Forum and accused Federal leaders apart of the forum of manipulating the Somali election at every turn. He also criticized the Puntland President, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas for getting into bed with candidates he’s formed the alliance with, at the peril of his Puntland constituents.

His comments come at a time where accusations of vote-buying, intimidation, fraud and violence have dominated the headlines surrounding the elections

Graft – vote-buying, fraud, intimidation – is the top concern in a nation that Transparency International now rates as the most corrupt in the world.
329 members of Somalia’s Upper and Lower House will choose between 22 candidates to elect the Somali president through a secret ballot tomorrow. To win in the first round, a candidate must get 219 votes, a feat that is highly unlikely. Only 4 of the 23 candidates will go on to the 2nd round of voting. To be declared the winner, a candidate must win 2/3 of the total votes.

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Francisco Madeira, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, said effective reduction of the threat caused by IEDs in Somalia depends on continued investment in modern equipments and additional training of security officers.

“In reducing IED threats, education, training, good reporting and exchange of information, degrading the network of the terrorists and investment in equipment to defeat the terrorists are required,” Madeira told a three-day forum on countering IEDs in Mogadishu late Monday.

According to a statement from the UN Mission in Somalia, Madeira said extra effort must be made by both the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and development partners to address the challenge posed by the devices which have become the weapon choice for the terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

The AU envoy’s remarks came amid increased terror attacks from Islamist militants who have been targeting government and AU bases including social places.

Last month, the insurgents stormed a military camp manned by Kenyan soldiers and killed at least 21 troops and wounded 44 others.
Madeira noted that the poor state of main supply routes in south-central Somalia had provided conditions for Al-Shabaab to continue laying ambushes and using IEDs against AMISOM convoys and Somali national security forces.

Hubert Price, Head of United Nations Office in Somalia (UNSOS), said ensuring main supply routes are safe from IEDs threat would reduce the cost of transportation of goods and services, delivery of humanitarian relief and improve governance.

“It is much less expensive to move goods and services by road than to move things by air. It is in everyone’s interest to make sure that the roads are clear whether it is for humanitarian relief,” Price said.

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Election observers in Somalia say corruption is running rampant ahead of Wednesday’s presidential election, with candidates giving gifts and large sums of cash to lawmakers to secure their votes.

Twenty-three candidates are challenging incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is seeking a second four-year term as leader of the Horn of Africa nation. The president will be elected by members of the parliament, who were elected last year.

Warning from official

Speaking to reporters Monday, the chairman of an independent anti-corruption committee threatened to expose those who are offering and accepting bribes.

“We know what is going on in the city and we want to make sure that things happen in a transparent and legal way,” said Abdi Ismail Samatar.

“There is no way we can immediately prevent if a lawmaker makes deals under the table, but we make sure that the voting process is free and fair, and later if we find out any corruption and bribery involvement, we will make it public,” he said.

The committee, which has no policing authority, was established by parliament to oversee the election and report any malpractices and irregularities.

Election moved to airport

The election has been delayed several times, and organizers decided last week to change the venue after 18 candidates expressed concerns about security at the original location, the Mogadishu police academy. The candidates spoke out after the commander of the police reportedly endorsed President Mohamud for re-election.

Now, members of the upper and lower houses of parliament will gather inside the heavily-fortified Aden Abdulle International Airport.

But few expect the change in venue to cause a change in tactics.

Heikal Kenneded, a Somali scholar and writer who lives in Virginia, said he saw election players exchanging cash during a trip to Mogadishu last week, though he would not specify who was involved in the deal.

“I definitely saw with my own eyes the vicious political corruption and wheeling and dealing of corrupted officials among the current candidates,” he told VOA’s Somali service Monday.

Government jobs have a price

Political insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, said candidates have begun reimbursing would-be supporters for their expenses, including airfare, hotel bills and meals. In addition, officials say bribes of between $1,000 and $10,000 have been paid.

According to a member of parliament, one candidate has spent $1.3 million in an effort to get elected.

Candidates are also offering positions in the government. “The major candidates have already began striking political deals with lawmakers to corrupt them, vote for them,” one lawmaker told VOA.

“The influential and prominent lawmakers have already secured offers of a future role in the coming administration in exchange for votes if their card wins,” another lawmaker said.

Fadumo Dayib was planning to become the first woman in Somalia’s male-dominated political culture to make a run for president. But after an active social media campaign, she did not register for the contest, citing a high level of corruption.

“I am not running because of the shocking level of corruption, and I don’t want to be part of something that is illegitimate,” Dayib said in a brief message posted on her social media platforms.

Security tightened

Somalia has a longstanding reputation for corruption and weak government. No government has been able to assert much authority outside Mogadishu since the regime of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre fell in 1991.

The situation has worsened periodic food shortages caused by drought, enabled militant group al-Shabab to seize chunks of territory and for several years, allowed pirates to freely hijack ships off the Somali coast for ransom.

Al-Shabab carries out periodic suicide bombings in Mogadishu, mainly aimed at the hotels where lawmakers, diplomats and businessmen tend to meet. So security has been stepped up in most parts of the city, and VOA reporters say government forces are patrolling the streets to prevent possible attacks.

Streets to be shut down during election

The current mayor of Mogadishu, Hussein Yusuf Jimale, said most of the city’s public and vehicular movements will shut down during the election.

“For two days, all the streets of the city will be shut down, starting from 6 p.m. Monday, all public transportation in the city will be suspended, schools will be shut down, and we ask people to remain in their houses,” Yusuf told reporters on Sunday.

Residents said security forces were deployed overnight in all streets leading to the airport from the rest of the city.

Two days of debates

Ahead of the vote, parliament is holding presidential debates on Monday and Tuesday, in which candidates are touting their plans to improve security, fight terrorism and implement good governance.
Among the president’s main challengers are his prime minister, Omar Abdurashid Ali Sharmarke; former president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed; and former prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi, a dual U.S.-Somali national better known as Farmajo. Other candidates include former ministers, former Mogadishu mayor, businessmen, and civil society activists.

In a speech to lawmakers Thursday, Mohamud vowed to rebuild the army to take over the security of the country within two years, and to prepare for elections by popular vote in 2020.

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You’re not alone. Music is something that defines and divides us. And that can be especially true for immigrant families.

For Somali immigrants in the US, 2017 marks 25 years of civil war in the country they left behind. That’s long enough for the older generation to wonder what’s left of the country they used to know, and long enough for a new generation to grow up without knowing anything else.

The generational divide plays out in song. Here, two Somali immigrants in Boston talk about how. 

Hodan Warfa:

“I was born in 1990 just shy of the civil war breaking out, and my mother literally packed everything up and we left before they could get to our neighborhood. I immigrated at the age of two. I came with my grandmother and she helped raise me, so she used to put Somali music on. I remember she used to turn on ‘Somali Udiida Ceb’ [which means] ‘Somalia Don’t Shame Yourself.’ That’s the one song I remember; I loved it.

“I remember growing up and my grandmother was really traumatized. She went through the civil war and my grandfather was murdered, so she liked that song. She was like, ‘See, you guys shamed yourselves, you killed your own people, you’re pulling dead bodies in the street.’ Because she was embarrassed of the civil war and the craziness going on.

“You know, Mogadishu and Somalia used to be called ‘The Pearl of the Indian Ocean,’ and now look what happened to it. So you feel like there’s shame, like there’s not really much of a reason to go back to Somalia.

Abdirahman Yusuf:

“I was born in the great city of Hergesa, the home of literature, songs and poetry. Nowadays people would look at the Somali people and their situation [and think] that these people never sang, never loved. 

“[In this song, 'Dama Ja'ayl'] he’s saying: ‘I’ve come upon the one that I wanted in all the world, lying in a grassy field. She had let her hair go and loosened her dress, and I thought, should I go hug her? Should I kiss her on the lips?’

“This is how our culture was, back then. Nowadays, God knows what it is, you know?”

Hodan Warfa:

“To be honest, people talk about Somalia — all I know is just craziness and running away. That’s it. I don’t know anything about Somalia and a great time. … I was not alive during that time. My parents tell me, but I don’t have that feeling.

“Sometimes I make the joke of like, all Somali parents have this book that they memorize all the same sayings, and then they use the same sayings on their kids. Even though my parents were not that bad, but certain things, like for example, music that I listened to, they were like: ‘What is this garbage you’re listening to?’ Listening to hip-hop, pop music.

“What they would do is bang the door like a crazy person. Or they would yell my name: Hodan! I realize my experience isn’t unique just to me. It’s something that every kid experiences, but even more so when you’re growing up here with a different kind of culture. You notice the differences automatically.”

Abdirahman Yusuf:

“I remember this [song, 'Qoraxdoo aroortii'], it’s special to me because some time in 1974 I was participating in the literacy campaign [in Somalia].

“All the students from the middle school and high school were sent out into the country to teach nomadic Somali people how to read and write, and we were part of that group. I must have been around 14 years old. And I heard this on the radio — out in the bushes in the remote [area]. And then years and years later when I came to Boston, one of my children, he came one day [with] his iPod and said: ‘Dad, what do you think of this song?’ And lo and behold it was this very song that he picked on his own. I’m like whoa, that took me to 1974 when I was 14 years old myself.”

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