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Somalia elects Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as president

BBC
Somalian President-elect, Minister Mohamed Abdullahi
Somalian President-elect, Minister Mohamed Abdullahi

Somalia's MPs have elected a Somali-US national as the country's new president in a vote held in an aircraft hangar.

Ex-Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" Mohamed beat President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in a surprise result. The vote was held at the heavily guarded airport complex in the capital, Mogadishu, as the rest of the country is too dangerous.

Traffic was banned and a no-fly zone imposed over the city to prevent attacks by militant Islamists.

Despite this, suspected militants fired mortar rounds close to the venue on Tuesday night. Somalia has not had a one-person one-vote democratic election since 1969.

That vote was followed by a coup, dictatorship and conflict involving clan militias and Islamist extremists.

Mr Mohamed's election is part of a lengthy and complex process to help the East African state rebuild its democracy and achieve stability.

More than 20,000 African Union (AU) troops are stationed in Somalia to prevent militant Islamist group al-Shabab from overthrowing the weak government.
The new president is popularly known as "Farmajo", Italian for cheese, because of his love for the dairy product.  Much of Somalia was a former Italian colony.

Thousands of Somalis quickly took to the streets to celebrate Mr Mohamed victory and cheering soldiers from the Somali army fired into the air, the Associated Press news agency reports.

Mr Mohamed is seen as a Somali nationalist, and his chances of winning increased after Somalia's arch-rival, Ethiopia, was seen to be backing the defeated president.

Mr Mohamed obtained 184 votes, compared with 97 for the outgoing president, who accepted defeat, avoiding a third and final vote.

"History was made, we have taken this path to democracy, and now I want to congratulate Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo," Mr Mohamud said in his concession speech.

Did the election go off peacefully?

Yes. The election hall, a converted aircraft hangar packed with MPs, was at the Mogadishu international airport complex.

It is viewed as the most secure site in Somalia, as the main AU base is there.

The vote was moved to the airport complex from a police academy because of growing fears that al-Shabab could strike.
The 2012 presidential vote was held at the academy, and the 2007 and 2004 vote in neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti respectively.

Were there only male presidential candidates?

A woman, Fadumo Dayib, had said she would stand but pulled out saying it was marred by corruption. However she has welcomed Mr Mohamed's victory.

More than 20 entered the race on Wednesday, but the number was reduced to two after two rounds of voting.

At least 16 of the original candidates have dual citizenship - nine hold US passports, four UK passports and three Canadian passports, according to a leading Somali private radio station.

It means that if US President Donald Trump's ban on Somali citizens entering the US comes into force again, some of them could be affected.

Many Somalis obtained dual nationality after fleeing the decades-long conflict. The US, UK, Kenya and South Africa are among countries where many Somalis have settled.

 


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