WASHINGTON/MOGADISHU - Incumbent Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has vowed to focus on establishing security and political stability if parliament gives him another term in next week's crucial election in Mogadishu.
In an exclusive interview with VOA, Mohamud said his primary priorities will be to work on the security of the country.
Mohamud said he wants to “complete the unfinished business.”
“Security was our first priority and it still remains our first priority,” he told VOA Somali on Friday evening. “We will end the threat coming from anti-peace elements and we will lay foundations for reliable security agencies in the country.”
Asked why he failed to stop al-Shabab attacks on key government installations in Mogadishu, Mohamud said the group has now resorted to attacking vulnerable targets.
“In 2012, al-Shabab was attacking the presidential; in 2014, they attacked the parliament, the law courts, and the U.N. HQs. That cannot happen today and it does not happen,” he said.
In a speech to parliament Thursday, Mohamud vowed to rebuild the army to take over the security of the country within two years, and to prepare for popular elections in 2020.
The 62-year old former civil society activist says another priority will be to create political stability in the country. He said the country needs a “national political system.”
“First and foremost of this is completing constitutional review, establishing electoral and political parties' laws,” he said.
He said Somalia needs “state powers” to function to determine policies and deliver to the public.
Mohamud faces a tough challenge, with 23 other candidates competing. All the candidates are men, and most of them have dual citizenship, many with European countries, the United Sates and Canada.
The challengers include some high-profile politicians, among them Mohamud's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, who said the country needs a “change of leadership.”
They also include former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who has lived abroad since he lost to Mohamud in 2012. Another heavyweight candidate is Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who worked under Ahmed as prime minister.
The candidates have been making speeches before the members of parliament to explain their plans for the future of Somalia. Most criticized the current president, accusing him of failing to stop al-Shabab attacks or to stabilize the country.
Ahmed accuses Mohamud of failing to implement his promises, starting with those pertaining to security. Ahmed argues that the progress he made on security in removing al-Shabab from key towns has been “rolled back.”
"No work has gone into security. Instead, they got preoccupied with personal issues,” he told VOA Somali.
“When I left here in 2012, everyone was able to drive their cars and walk freely. I came back to see a city crippled by roadblocks, sandbags, bricks and security barriers. You can't improve security by building walls, trenches and barriers,” he said.
Ahmed said his priority would be to rebuild the army and provide support to them by paying their salary. He also said he would work on building government institutions and improving their capacity.
The 329-member parliament will vote for the president on Wednesday. A candidate must get two-thirds of the votes to win outright in the first round. Observers think a first-round victory for any of the candidates is highly unlikely.