- Special Pages
The election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president of Somalia provides a ray of hope for a country which has become a byword for failure in the troubled Horn of Africa for over two decades. Though a relative calm prevails in most parts of the country now, Somalis would find it difficult to forget the ordeal of violence and bloodletting that has plagued the country. During the height of insurgency, even the capital Mogadishu was split into two and was controlled by rival warring groups. The city was divided by a green line often called the “cancer of Somalia”.
Mohamud’s election marks the beginning of a painful reconstruction process that will undoubtedly face many hurdles. The rebuilding of strife-torn country is a challenge, and a formidable one.
As the new president was put up in a new hotel, along with by a Kenyan minister, a suicide bomber from the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shebab blew himself up outside the building, claiming a number of lives. Mohamud was unhurt and the incident did not ruffle a country that has internalised strife. The attack points to the difficulties the new leader will face in restoring order and bringing the country back from the brink.
A similar incident occurred last month as the constituent assembly was meeting in Mogadishu. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the venue where the meeting was under way.
Somalia gets a new president with a new constitution and parliament. Mohamud, a former lecturer, has a difficult task ahead, if you look at the band of “rowdies prancing outside the campus with guns and rocket-propelled grenades.” All eyes are now on the newly-anointed leader belonging to the dominant Hawiye clan. Mohamud has a number of priorities and what seems more difficult than improving the economy is bringing stability. Governance is no laughing matter and though the 57-year old leader has an impressive curriculum vitae, he definitely does not have long experience in government.
The president should take up the task of reconstruction gradually and not lose sight of the larger goal — enabling the people of Somalia to nurture trust in the rule of law and helping them lead a peaceful existence. At the same time, the moderate Islamist leader will have to ensure that the population gets its basic necessities like food, drinking water and electricity without encountering harsh circumstances. Gradually, his government will have to take up education and healthcare as priorities. Last but not the least, Mohamud should enlist the active support of Western governments to turn around the country. The west, ever wary of resurgence of militancy in a region of geostrategic importance, will be an eager partner in the process.