Somalia is destined for a brighter future following the successful conclusion of the 2016 electoral process, the Special Representative of the African Union Commission Chairperson (SRCC) for Somalia Ambassador Francisco Madeira has said.
Ambassador Madeira said he witnessed the exercise in various voting centres, in different parts of the country, and was confident that the electoral process had laid a strong foundation for democracy and better governance.
The drawn-out electoral process came to an end on 8 February, this year, following the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo in a hotly contested race that saw the incumbent gracefully concede defeat.
"What we witnessed in that hangar, was a very exemplary election. The way the incumbent gracefully conceded defeat, is something befitting a statesman. A statesman who saw beyond his own pride and interests and made sure everything went peacefully, and, for the sake of peace and stability, did away with the possibility of continuing to contest up to the end," the SRCC observed.
Ambassador Madeira was referring to the election day when former President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, conceded defeat in the second round of voting even though he had the option to go for the third round and final round, since none of the contenders received two-thirds majority vote to be declared new President of Somalia.
The head of the mission described the electoral process as historic, adding that AMISOM was proud to be associated with the exercise.
The African Union supported the process in different ways, for example, brokering peace between warring clans, organizing diplomatic engagements with the Somali leaders and securing the elections by working closely with the Somali national security forces.
"I must say that the collaboration between AMISOM Police, AMISOM military component and Somali National Army and Somali Police was extraordinary. They complemented each other and shared information like never before. They faced the enemy together, undertook cordon and search operations, mop-up operations, de-activated many explosive devices from Al- Shabaab, and escorted the population; the elders from various places to the voting areas. They secured the voting centres, and thanks to God and thanks to their effort, it all went well," Ambassador Madeira observed.
The SRCC expressed confidence that Somalia will progress, saying President Farmajo has already articulated issues his government will prioritize, among them, security, tackling corruption and promoting peace and stability.
"He has made it his priority the need to ensure Somalia has functioning national security service, that is, the army, police and the intelligence. He has made it his priority the need to ensure soldiers are paid timely, receive uniforms and equipment needed to do their work properly," noted the SRCC.
He, however, acknowledged securing Somalia goes beyond having a national army and police, adding that other critical institutions must supplement the role of the security forces.
President Farmajo has already expressed commitment to bring government closer to the people and also work with development partners to provide essential services, among them, roads, schools, health centres, markets and jobs for the youths.
Securing the electoral process was not without challenges for the allied forces, the main one being the threat posed by Al-Shabaab terrorists to disrupt the process and compromise its credibility.
"The challenges were that we had the entire country to protect and Al-Shabaab had the entire country to destroy. We had an enemy that was sneaky, invisible and opportunistic. We had to deal with such an enemy and at the same time observe the most strict humanitarian law, human rights principles and human rights due diligence policy," Ambassador Madeira noted.
With the electoral process now completed, the head of AMISOM said focus will now be on supporting the government, mainly helping build capacity for the Somali security institutions in preparation for the drawdown of African Union troops from Somalia, beginning October 2018.
"The priorities after the election are to continue to work with the government to make sure first and foremost that we continue to disrupt and degrade Al-Shabaab in a manner that it does not pose problems to the existing administrations and governments. We have to continue to remove Al-Shabaab from the remaining strongholds to make sure that it doesn't hold any town," Ambassador Madeira said.
Ambassador Madeira said the successful completion of the electoral process had provided essential lessons to both AMISOM and the federal government as Somalia prepares for one-man one-vote in 2020.