April 11, 2017


Three reasons for optimism in Somalia (Eleanor Zeff, 4/10/17, The Conversation)

There are four major and many minor Somali clans, each with its own traditions and territories. Clan divisions have had a significant impact on Somalia's status as a fragile state.

By 2012, and with help from the U.N., the clans agreed to a power sharing formula to allocate parliamentary seats. The agreement helped the clan elders come together and led to the first formal parliament in 20 years.

Elections followed, but cautiously. The 2016 parliamentary elections and the 2017 presidential elections built on the formula created in 2012, but with more delegates participating to elect the parliament. To avoid violence from the clans or Al Shabab contingents, the vote for president was limited to members of the upper and lower houses of parliament, the members of which were chosen by the clans. They cast ballots at a heavily guarded air force base in Mogadishu.

Citizen response to the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was enthusiastic. He took office on Feb. 8, 2017, in a smooth transition from the former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. He declared an era of unity. Farmajo's experience of living in the United States - he holds dual citizenship and graduated from SUNY, Buffalo - and remittances from the Somali diaspora may help the economy grow and democratic values take hold.

The new president is representative of the almost two million Somalis who left the country, many between 1990 and 2015, and the significant number who have returned from abroad. Somalia is home again to many former refugees to the U.S., Canada and Europe who have dual citizenship and good educations. Many of these returnees have shown an interest in politics.

Indeed, one-third of the elected candidates in the 2016 parliamentary election hold foreign passports. Out of the 275 members of the Somali parliament, 22 are Somali-Americans and 29 are British Somalis. The 48-year-old prime minister, a former senior official in the Soma Oil and Gas exploration company, is a dual Somali-Norwegian citizen.

Posted by at April 11, 2017 7:22 AM