Flag of Somalia. Academic and civic activist Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been elected as Somalia’s new president. Photo by: Stuart Price / U.N. Photo / CC BY-NC-ND

Somalia made history Monday (Sept. 10) with its “first and fair elections” in 40 years. The election of a new president also marks the completion of the country’s political transition.

With a 190 to 79 vote, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud defeated outgoing president Sheik Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Mohamud, many claim, is a political novice, entering politics only when he founded the political party Peace and Development in 2011.

Several members of the international community have already expressed their views over the election. The European Union, which is among the country’s top donors in 2010 according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has welcomed the news and noted the prospects this brings to Somalia: “lasting peace, prosperity and stability to the millions of people who have suffered from a protracted conflict over the years.”

The United States, meanwhile, said the vote “represents an important milestone for the people of Somalia, and a crucial step forward along the path of building a representative government.”

Both Western powers, however, recognize that “much work” remains to be done in Somalia, which has not had a functional central government for 21 years. 

The new federal government must “finalise key pending elements of the Provisional Constitution and embark on stabilisation efforts in all accessible areas in the country,” the European Union said in a statement. “The people of Somalia must be assured of good governance, transparency and accountability, justice and respect of their rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of worship.”

U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia Augustine Mahiga, meanwhile, said, “Somalia must now focus on stabilization, reconciliation and building sustainable and accountable institutions of governance capable of providing services to its people.”

A number of challenges continue to plague Somalia, a conflict-afflicted country beset with pockets of insecurity, underdevelopment and humanitarian crises. Monday’s election, while seen as a “great step forward,” is only the beginning of a long and arduous path to peace and stability.

Mohamud’s rich background in development, however, may be of benefit to his country and its people, who have for so long suffered from lawlessness and lack of institutions. He has served in several national and international organizations, including as an education officer for UNICEF. He also helped set up the Somali Institute of Management and Administration Development  now SIMAD University  to “train administrators and technicians to help rebuild Somalia,” according toThe Associated Press.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Abdirashid Hashi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa with the International Crisis Group, told AP. “But Somalia’s problems are too big for a person to solve alone.”

Mohamud was sworn in immediately after the results were announced. He will be serving a four-year term.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.