Somalia Elects Popular And Least Corrupt Candidate As President

Somalia has been functioning without an effective government for decades. The new President unseated the incumbent in a surprise upset, raising questions about who he is and what lies ahead.

We turn now to Somalia, which has been without an effective government for nearly a quarter-century. But this past week the parliament managed to pull off a presidential election just after President Donald Trump temporarily barred immigration from Somalia and six other Muslim-majority countries to the United States. Though U.S. courts have since suspended the ban, the future of Somalia is still uncertain.

SINGH: Somalia’s often described as lawless, much of the country overrun by al-Shabab Islamist militants. But the recent presidential election in Somalia was a big deal, right?

PERALTA: Yeah, no, it was, specifically because this election included many more Somalis than ever before. And this was really the final piece toward a process of creating a functional central government. And that hasn’t happened in Somalia in more than two decades. And the last piece of that is that a popular candidate won. His name is Mohamed Mohamed Farmajo. He uses a nickname as a last name because he liked cheese as a kid, and formaggio means cheese in Italian. But that’s another story, Lakshmi (laughter).

PERALTA: So Farmajo’s a dual Somalian and American citizen, and he spent much of his life in Buffalo, N.Y., working for the local government there. But he’s popular, and the polls showed that he was the country’s favorite. And that’s a big deal here, that parliament elected the popular favorite and the man seen as the least corrupt candidate.

Of course, he has a really tall task ahead of him. First of all, he has to deal with al-Shabab. And then he has to deal with a drought. It’s getting really bad here in the Horn of Africa. The U.N. estimates that 2.9 million people are at the risk of famine. And the biggest thing that Farmajo has to do is build a central government, which has hardly worked since 1991.

And one thing that we should keep in mind here is that al-Shabab has remained quiet about this election. We don’t know what that means. But in the past, they’ve been very quick to declare war.