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Dual Citizen Wins Somali Presidential Election

2017-2-10

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is the new president of Somalia. He defeated incumbent president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, after two sets of voting. The new leader formerly served as Somalia’s prime minister. He holds both Somali and American citizenship.

"This is a victory for Somalia and the Somalis," Mohamed 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."

Who is Farmajo?

The 54 year-old Mohamed is widely known by the nickname Farmajo. He went to university in New York and served in the Somali Embassy in Washington, D.C. in the 1980s.

Mohamed sought asylum in the United States following the collapse of the Somali government. He lived in New York and worked for the state government there for many years.

New Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo celebrates winning the election and taking office in Mogadishu, Somalia Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.
New Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo celebrates winning the election and taking office in Mogadishu, Somalia Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017.

However, Mohamed remained closely connected to Somali politics. In 2010, Somalia’s president asked him to serve as prime minister. He did so for eight months, until June of 2011. The rebel group al-Shabab was at the height of its power during that period.

Challenges and hope

Al-Shabab threatened to interfere with the voting Wednesday. African Union peacekeepers and government forces enforced strong security measures. The election took place peacefully.

Somalia's new president faces many difficulties, including the fight against al-Shabab.

The country is also troubled with corruption, poverty, and food insecurity.

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

But for now, many people in Mogadishu appear to be hopeful. Witnesses told VOA's Somali service that public celebrations began in the Somali Capital following the announcement.

The AP reports that thousands of Somalis happily demonstrated in the streets, chanting the new president's name. "Somalia will be another Somalia soon," said Ahmed Ali, a police officer celebrating in the crowd.

I'm John Russell.

Dan Joseph wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted this story for Learning English with additional information from Reuters and AP. Catherine Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

incumbent – n. a person who holds a particular office or position

era – n. a period of time that is associated with a particular quality, event, person, etc.

daunting – adj. very difficult to do or deal with

chant – v. to say (a word or phrase) many times in a rhythmic way usually loudly and with other people