In a surprising political upset, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo was declared Somalia’s new president on Wednesday (Feb. 8). Farmaajo defeated the immediate former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud following two rounds of voting by lawmakers in the capital city’s heavily fortified airport.
Farmaajo was a popular choice among Somalis across the world. The country doesn’t have universal suffrage so the president was picked by the country’s 329 lawmakers. Following the announcement, cheering crowds thronged the streets of the capital—and in the Somali-dominated neighborhood of Eastleigh in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Farmaajo had previously been appointed the country’s prime minister in 2010 and stayed on the job for eight months. During his tenure, he reduced the size of the government, paid the military regularly and campaigned against corruption—moves that endeared him to many Somalis. After leaving the government, he went back to Buffalo, New York, where he worked for the state’s transportation department.
Farmaajo takes on the mantle of a fragile state that is deeply marred in political and socio-economic crises. The al-Qaeda-linked group, al-Shabaab, continues to pose a huge security threat, attacking government offices and private businesses. The United Nations also recently warned of a looming famine in the country, similar to the one that killed nearly 260,000 Somalis between 2010 and 2012.
After taking the oath of office, Farmaajo said his win represented the interests of the Somali people. “This victory belongs to Somali people, and this is the beginning of the era of the unity, the democracy of Somalia and the beginning of the fight against corruption.”