WASHINGTON — As the Somali diaspora continues to express glee over their newly elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, some even say that after decades of living abroad, they are ready to go back to their homeland.
After taking office this week, Mohamud said he is ready to lead. The former professor and longtime civil society activist defeated incumbent Sharif Sheikh Ahmed by a legislative vote of 190 to 79 votes.
“I promise to lead the country and people who want me to lead the country," said Mohamud.
Outgoing president Ahmed accepted defeat and said he will rally behind the new leadership.
“This was a free and fair election, and I accept the result of the vote. I am willing and ready to work with new president," said Mohamud.
This was an historic moment for Somalis in Somalia, but also for those who left their homeland decades ago, like store owners Ayan Ahmed Diriye and Iman Osman in Washington.
“All Somali people in the Washington, DC area [all our community] we are very very happy. We support him [new president]," said Diriye.
"We need the new president to be good for the Somali people, the country and the Islamic religion too. We are also thankful to the American government," said Osman.
Mohamed Mahmud said the happiness stems from the hope that this new change is here to stay.
“I think most Somalis here are happy because for 21 years we never had a real government; we only had temporary governments,” he said.
For the younger generation of Somalis, like Fatima Ahmed, this change means something even greater for those who left when they were very young.
“I think it’s great for us because we are hoping someday to go back to our country because there’s nothing like home. I am really happy we have a new president,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed's friend Fardosa said it’s time for the youth to play an even bigger role.
“For the young generation and teens we have to stand up for Somali, and it makes us look good. At least we are not the least bad-looking country in the world anymore. So Hassan, you go," she said in encouragement, with a smile.
Mohamed Issak Idow left Somalia 32 years ago. He said he has big expectations for the new president.
“To heal the wounds and the problems that devastated Somalia, we have to regain our dignity and sovereignty in the arena of the international community,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other international leaders have congratulated the new Somali president and his administration, and have urged them to work toward a better future for the East African nation.