Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was inaugurated as the 10th president of Somalia Thursday in a colorful ceremony attended by hundreds of people, including the leaders of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. In his inaugural speech, Mohamud warned that in addition to the danger posed by al-Shabab, severe drought poses an immediate threat to the country.
Cheers and applause punctuated the new president's speech as he promised to tackle corruption, poverty, insecurity and the humanitarian crisis that has devastated Somalia in recent months. However, he warned the continued lack of rain could have grave consequences for the country.
Somalia is extremely vulnerable to drought, Mohamud said, and there are fears that the drought will turn into famine. The president noted these droughts now happen almost every year, and said there are many reasons for this, including climate change. He outlined his agenda for the next four years, saying he will prioritize reconciliation and the restoration of institutions to give citizens hope.
Mohamud, who previously served as president from 2012 to 2017, said that during his new term he will "ensure the rule of law is maintained, the judiciary is strengthened, people's confidence in government is restored and poverty will be tackled.”
In addition, the new president thanked the international community for supporting the recently concluded electoral process. The process lasted over a year because of political disputes that at one point saw Mohamud’s predecessor attempt to extend his mandate by 24 months.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Djiboutian President Omar Guelleh and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed also addressed the ceremony.
Abiy said the peaceful handover of power of Somalia is a milestone and a major step towards the goal of achieving one-person one-vote elections.
Kenyatta said a stable Somalia is in the interest of Kenya, adding that his country is ready to open business opportunities between the two countries.
“I personally look forward to working with you, to remove all barriers to trade, to open our borders, to establish air links between our two countries, so that our people can come closer together,” Kenyatta said.
The most urgent issue for the region is the drought, which also has severely affected Ethiopia and Kenya. Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes in search of food and water, and aid agencies have warned an official declaration of famine may not be far away.