Mogadishu — For the first time in 43 years, Somalia has elected a formal leader. This officially marks the end of an eight-year transitional administration in the war- and famine-ravaged nation. Both old and young took to the streets to welcome President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
On Monday, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was declared President of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Minutes after the parliament speaker announced the country's new chief, celebratory gunfire erupted in what has of late been a volatile Mogadishu.
It was by a landslide that the 57-year-old founder and chairman of the Peace and Development Party won over former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as his running mate. Mohamud also beat a score of other candidates, including the once US-based technocrat Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and Maslah Siad Bare, son of the former Somali President.
Pro-Mohamud demonstrations were held across Somalia in support of the newly elected chief. RNW spoke with some of Mogadishu's youth to see how welcoming they might be of this relative newcomer to Somalia's dynamic political arena.
"He has been with us along"
"He is a patriotic leader, one who we [have] seen and heard of in the past two decades. He has been with us all along the civil war," Yasin Mohamed says. The 16 year old, whose entire life spans the period of violence, believes that the newly elected chief understands his country's situation better than Somalis from the diaspora.
"We pray that he leads this country from misery and deliver the Somali people's expectation," he adds.
Jamal Mire, a 23-year-old IT expert, is also pleased with the election's outcome. Thinking about the government more broadly, he recommends a politician to complement Mohamud. "It's our desire to see a powerful cabinet and therefore we appeal to Haasan Sheikh Mohamud to give us back our beloved former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo," says Mire, referring to the US-educated politician who was in office for less than a year before resigning.
Twenty-year-old Najma, who prefers her surname not be printed, has a slightly different vision. "We believe that a combination of Hassan Sheikh, who is a professor, parliament speaker Professor Mohamed Osman Jawari and Abdullahi Farmajo is the only answer to the Somalia crisis. Farmajo has been tested, and we believe that he can lead us to glory," she explains.
In fact, many young people in Somalia hope that the new president will improve the country's education sector, which is among the organs paralyzed in the two decades of war.
Mohamud is famous for being one of the founders of the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development (SIMAD), which became Simad University. Established in 1999, it is the first institute of its kind since the collapse of the Somali state. As of last year, close to 4,000 students were registered in its undergraduate programmes and, since 2002, over 1,500 students have graduated with diplomas in various disciplines.
Najma, who studies medicine at Mogadishu University, believes Somalia needs educated leaders to help bring the nation into the global limelight. She is thus optimistic about Mohamud. "We expect in the future to see free primary and secondary education from our new leader since he has been active in the education sector and among the founding members of SIMAD University in Somalia," she says.