Somalia's election and Dadaab's future: This week in development news

Members of the Federal Parliament of Somalia queue to cast their ballots during the presidential election held at the Mogadishu Airport hangar. Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed was elected the new president of Somalia. Photo by: Ilyas Ahmed / AMISOM Photo

A corruption-plagued election in Somalia gives rise to a moment of political hope, while the development community mourns a man who fought back against the “post-fact era.” This week in development news.

Kenya’s high court ruled Thursday that the government cannot close the Dadaab refugee camp, because doing so would be unconstitutional and discriminatory. In May 2016 Kenya's internal security minister ordered that the Dadaab camp, which houses more than 200,000 refugees from neighboring Somalia, be shut down. Some Kenyan officials complained that Dadaab has become a staging ground for al-Shabab terrorist attacks. International pressure delayed Dadaab’s closure and the forced relocation of its residents, and now the court’s decision has rendered the government order “null and void,” according to the judge’s ruling. Amnesty International called it “a historic day for more than a quarter of a million refugees who were at risk of being forcefully returned to Somalia.” In his ruling, the judge argued that the Kenyan government had not done enough to show that refugees returned to Somalia would not face persecution there.

Meanwhile in Somalia, 329 members of Parliament — chosen to represent the country’s various regions and clans — have elected a new president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen and former prime minister. The election — held in a hangar at Mogadishu airport because of security concerns — was propped up by Western donors, delayed for a year, subject to massive corruption, and ultimately saw the incumbent president unseated by a surprise candidate and popular favorite. Investigators estimated that roughly $20 million changed hands as electors, candidates and supporters bought and sold votes in the lead up to Wednesday’s election, including some reports of votes selling for up to $30,000 each. The new president will likely face an immediate test as Somalia lurches toward a long-feared famine, brought on by drought, humanitarian access challenges and rising food prices.

Six Afghan employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross were shot and killed Wednesday in an attack believed to have been carried out by the Islamic State. Two others are missing and feared captured. “The team, composed of three drivers and five field officers, was on its way to deliver much-needed livestock materials in an area south of the town of Shibergan in Jawzan province. Their convoy was attacked by unknown armed men,” the organization said in a statement. The ICRC put its programs in Afghanistan on hold following the attack, but hopes to resume operations in the country where it has operated for 30 years. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms what appears to be a deliberate attack on our staff. This is a huge tragedy. We’re in shock,” said ICRC’s President Peter Maurer.

Hans Rosling, who challenged the development community to rethink its assumptions about health and poverty, died this week. His innovative data visualizations captivated live and online audiences and helped to debunk some long-held myths about health and poverty. Rosling showed that reducing child mortality can lead to smaller family sizes — and he challenged a United Nations’ assertion that the majority of maternal deaths occur in conflict areas. Rosling was held in high esteem by development leaders who looked to him for evidence and guidance — and for an escape from the “post-fact era” that he worried had found a foothold within the global health and development community.

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About the author

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    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.