Five years later, he returns to power: Somalia elected Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud as president for the second time on Sunday, after a ballot in maximum security, in a country plagued by the insurrection of radical Islamist Shebabs and where famine is threatening.
After a marathon of votes, Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud, president from 2012 to 2017, won against outgoing head of state Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, who had beaten him five years ago. Celebratory gunfire echoed in the capital Mogadishu.
“It is truly remarkable that the president is here by my side, we must move forward and never go back, we must heal our wounds,” said the new president, immediately invested, referring to his predecessor Farmajo.
“I greet here my brother, the new president Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud, and I wish him good luck in the face of the enormous task that awaits him”, said the latter, promising him his “solidarity”.
These elections took place after more than a year of delay in this unstable country in the Horn of Africa, shaken by a long political crisis, which is also suffering from a historic drought.
Deputies and senators began voting on Sunday to decide among the 36 presidential candidates, under a curfew tent erected on the perimeter of Mogadishu airport, where security forces are omnipresent.
At the beginning of the voting, explosions were heard near the airport, a reminder of how precarious the security situation in the country is. However, police said no casualties were reported.
After hours of voting, broadcast on national television, the complex electoral process has entered its third and final phase with the two candidates still in the running, outgoing president Farmajo and his predecessor Hassan Cheikh Mohamoud, as it was five years ago.
The two finalists were among the four qualified after the first round of voting.
– A year of political crisis –
Farmajo’s mandate had expired in February 2021, without an agreement with regional leaders on organizing new elections.
The two-year extension of his mandate by parliamentarians in April 2021 had ignited the fighting in Mogadishu, reviving the memory of the decades of civil war that devastated the country after 1991. The last few months have also been characterized by a growing rivalry between Farmajo and his Prime Minister. Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who had been in charge of organizing the elections.
“We are tired of living in uncertainty … I hope that a president will be elected and that today will mark the end of this circus,” Muktar Ali, a resident of Mogadishu, told AFP on Sunday.
The election follows a complex indirect system, in which state assemblies and delegates from a myriad of clans and subclans choose lawmakers who, in turn, appoint the president.
“In terms of results, Somali politics is notoriously difficult to predict,” says Omar Mahmood, an analyst at the International Crisis Group: “It is essentially a matter of alliances and relationships rather than programs.”
In this unstable environment, people tend to vote for some continuity, Samira Gaid, executive director of the Hiraal Institute specializing in security issues, estimated before the election.
“People aren’t going to go to a new face, they’re definitely going to go to old faces, people they recognize, people they feel most comfortable with,” she told AFP. .
– Multiplication of Shebab’s attacks –
For a year and a half, the international community has multiplied calls to complete the elections, believing that the delays have distracted the authorities from the fight against the radical Islamist shebab, affiliated with al-Qaeda, who have been leading an insurrection in the country for 15 years. . .
Before the elections, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, thus estimated in a tweet that it was “time for Somalia’s leadership to focus on reconciliation and peace-building”.
In recent months, the Shebabs have intensified their attacks, notably by carrying out a bloody double attack in the center of the country on March 24 (48 dead), then a major attack on an African Union force base (10 dead according to official reports. ).
These elections will also be crucial for Somalia’s economic future, where 71% of the population lives on less than $ 1.90 a day (€ 1.80).
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that an aid program could automatically end on May 17 if a new administration is not established. The government asked at the end of April to postpone this deadline by three months, without any response for the moment.
The country is also facing one of the worst droughts in decades. Humanitarian organizations fear a famine similar to that of 2011, which killed 260,000 people.