Incoming Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the target of an assassination attempt earlier this week, says restoring security will be his first order of business once he officially assumes office Sunday.
Mohamud spoke Saturday to VOA from the country's heavily-fortified presidential palace in Mogadishu. He arrived there Thursday, three days early, under heavy security hours after three suicide bombers attacked a Mogadishu hotel where he was residing. At least four people, including all three bombers, were killed.
Mohamud, an academic and political moderate, said his first presidential priority will be to determine why so many young Somali men and women have sought to join the outlawed al-Shabab militant group. He said his administration will then try to create what he called "opportunities for them to defect from [the] al-Shabab group." He also called on militants to leave Somalia voluntarily as soon as possible.
Speaking of the assassination attempt, Mr. Mohamud said he knew he would be facing serious risks when he decided to seek the presidency. But he said the attack will not deter him from upcoming duties.
Mohamud, elected September 10, takes over a country that has not had a stable central government since 1991. However, hopes for peace and stability are rising. Al-Shabab has lost most of its major strongholds to African Union and Somali government forces, and peace has largely returned to Mogadishu, which endured years of almost daily fighting.
Last month, Somali leaders adopted a new constitution and installed a new federal parliament and speaker.