A Somali-born scholar says he is surprised at the successful conclusion of Monday’s presidential election in Somalia. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud defeated incumbent president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed by a vote of 90 to 79 in a runoff following first round of voting by members of parliament.
Said Samatar, who teaches African history at Rutgers University, said the absence of acrimony in the process is a welcome development.
“I expected much more infighting, recrimination and impasse. But this surprisingly came through quite easily,” he said.
Samatar cited allegations of corruption as one of the factors that contributed to Sheikh Sharif’’s defeat.
“Sheikh Sharif in the course of being president has been accused of being involved in some impropriety…..embezzlement of huge amounts of money and selling passports to (the Islamic rebel group) al-Shabaab and the (Somali) pirates,” said Samatar.
The former president has repeatedly denied such charges.
The Rutgers scholar notes a majority of the candidates that vied for the presidency were college-educated, which may have put Sheikh Sharif at a disadvantage.
As to what issue the new president should address as a priority, Samatar said al-Shabaab and the autonomous Puntland region come first.
“It is urgent to deal with this Islamist terrorist organization al-Shabaab. Even though al-Shabaab is retreating losing towns, they still control a large portion of southern Somalia,” he said. “Secondly, a very delicate issue is arising in Puntland which feels alienated. I think his (the new president’s) job will be to try and soothe the perceived wounds of Puntland.”