Yesterday, Somalia’s newly appointed parliament voted Hassan Sheikh Mohamud into office as the country’s new president.
A political amateur and academic from central Somalia, Mohamud is considered to be a moderate. As such, he contrasts greatly with the former president of the Transitional Federal Government, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Mohammed. A hard-line Islamist and poster boy for corruption, Sharif represented all that was wrong with Somali governance.
International circles are hailing the election as a victory for Somalia. According to a press release by the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General for Somalia:
The Somali people have taken a great step forward on the path to prosperity.… Somalia has proved the doubters wrong and sent a powerful message of progress to all of Africa and indeed to the entire world.
The White House also hailed the selection of Mohamud as “an important milestone for the people of Somalia and a crucial step forward along the path of building a representative government.”
They’re setting themselves up for disappointment.
Mohamud’s victory is likely less an endorsement of him than a rejection of Sharif. In July, a U.N. report found that Sharif’s government was complicit in the mismanagement and outright theft of nearly 70 percent of international aid, as well as criminal activity, including piracy. Apart from blatant corruption and the disrespect for the rule of law, Sharif failed to address the most basic needs of the Somali people or establish peace and security in a country occupied by the terrorist organization al-Shabaab.
Even more concerning is the undemocratic process by which the new government came to power. It sets a poor standard for future governance. Neither the president nor parliament was elected by the Somali people. Rather, a National Constituent Assembly comprised of clan elders (also not elected by the Somali people) selected members of parliament. The parliament then voted on the president, who will appoint the prime minister. Furthermore, parliament approved the country’s new constitution without public consultations and a popular referendum as mandated by the transitional charter.
The new government represents the 15th attempt by the international community to establish peace in Somalia. Perhaps this attempt will be more successful than the past 14 failures, but the record offers little reason for optimism.