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Who is Somalia's newest president?

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In a groundbreaking and historic election, a former prime minister who holds dual Somali-US citizenship was elected Somalia's ninth president on Wednesday, forming a central government in the unstable East African country for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

After incumbent Prime Minister Hassan Sheikh Mohamud conceded during the second round of voting, President Mohamed Abdullahi "Farmajo" promised to bring unity and hope to the Somali people, many of whom have been shaken by terrorism, drought, and cholera. 

"This victory belongs to the Somali people." Farmajo said after taking the oath of office. "This is the beginning of the era of unity, the democracy of Somalia and the beginning of the fight against corruption."

"There is a daunting task ahead of me, and I know that," he said.


And his message struck a chord with Somalis, who, after his remarks, poured into the in the streets, chanting "Somalia will be another Somalia soon."

Who is Somalia's newest president?

WATCH | Somalia swears in its 9th president

But now that the fireworks have settled, and the celebrations have concluded, Farmajo finds himself as the leader of a country still struggling to make ends meet. According to ReliefWeb, roughly five million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

So, who exactly is Farmajo and what's his plan to bring stability to the Horn of Africa?

His nickname is 'cheese'

The newest Somali president has a reported love of cheese, wrote Sakariye Cismaan, a political analyst on Somalia. Cleverly, the nickname originates from the Italian language, which translates "cheese" to "formaggio." 

He represents the voice of the people

Not having held a one-vote democratic election since 1969,  Somalia made great strides to protect the integrity of the electoral process this time around. Due to security concerns, more than 300 legislators-- previously chosen by clan elders and regional figures-- cast their votes for the next leader in an airport surrounded by thousands of military forces. Initial plans of giving each adult one vote were scrapped due to challenges in securing the poll sites.

With that said, the Somali legislators chose Farmajo instead of the more connected and well-funded candidates, Sakariye Cismaan, a political analyst on Somalia, told Circa. 

"They seemed to have listened to the voices of the people," he said. "There are celebrations outside the country, such as [in Eastleigh, Nairobi] where there is a sizable Somali population. Even all of his rivals from the race are praising him."

He has a credible record

Farmajo was a prime minister from November 2010 to June 2011. In those brief seven months, Farmajo accomplished more than his predecessors, Cismaan said. This included paying government workers and soldiers who went without payment for months and setting up an anti-corruption committee. These accomplishments were at the forefront of Somali subconscious when it came time to vote.

"Morale was so high in those seven months that the Somali Army started to liberate large swaths of territory from the militant group al-Shabaab," Cismaan added.

Those achievements, nonetheless, were also his downfall. The government establishment effectively pushed him out.  

He's embodies change

Somalia has topped Transparency International's list as the most corrupt country for several years. But, Cismaan noted the ways in which Farmajo is different from his predecessors. He has plans to finish the work he started, such as fighting heightened levels of corruption, provide basic services to Somalis, and reinstating stability and security in the country.


He has ties to the US

On the other hand, Farmajo's roots are wildly different than past Somali leaders. Farmajo sought asylum in the US, and eventually moved to Buffalo, New York, because of the large Somali community there, the Washington Post reported. He lived there for 31 years and continued to blast the Somali government.

Whether his leadership will initiate a change in US-Somali relations remains uncertain, Cismaan said, citing Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric.

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