Islamic militia calls new Somali president a traitor
Los Angeles Times
MOGADISHU, Somalia – While international leaders Tuesday urged Somalia's new president to move swiftly to establish an inclusive government to rebuild his ruined nation, the Islamic militia that controls parts of the country called him a traitor.
In a statement from New York, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Hassan Sheik Mohamud and called on him to move swiftly to establish a broad-based government. Mohamud's first task will be to select a prime minister.
But Sheik Ali Mahmud Rage, a spokesman for the Qaida-linked militia Shabab, said Mohamud represented Western interests and that his election by parliament was manipulated by outside powers in a bid to steal Somali resources, Reuters reported.
The Shabab's fighters withdrew from Mogadishu in August 2011 and have since lost control of several important provincial towns. However, they still have the capacity to unleash attacks and assassinations in the capital.
The election of Mohamud, an academic, civic activist and opposition politician, was widely viewed as a surprise because he is a political newcomer from outside Somalia's political elite. He faces the difficult task of uniting Somalia's fractious clans, overcoming the country's 21 years as a failed state and dealing with the Shabab rebellion.
Some Somalis are skeptical that Mohamud will be able to exert control over the powerful clan warlords. But for many others he represents hope, mainly because he was not part of the corrupt and unpopular transitional government that ruled for eight years. His credibility is also enhanced by his decision to stay in Somalia during the conflict while some political figures emigrated to the United States, Canada or Europe and returned home only to run in the election.
Abdiassis Mumin Dahi, 40, owner of a construction materials shop, said Tuesday that Mohamud's major disadvantage in the vote was his lack of experience.
"Hassan Sheik Mohamud has had no political experience in the past, no strong knowledge of the government system and no strong links with the neighboring countries and the international community," he said, sipping a glass of tea in his shop. "In fact, given all those factors, it seemed there was no way for him to succeed in getting elected."
But he said Mohamud's strategy of forming an opposition party including people without links to the transitional federal government paid off.
Mohamud has worked as a teacher, UNICEF education officer and civic activist. He founded a university in Mogadishu in 1999, and last year organized an opposition party, the Party for Peace and Development. He briefly worked as a consultant to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in the transitional government.
Hawa Ali Alisow, 35, a mother of six and a vegetable seller in the capital's Hamarjajab district, was hopeful that Mohamud would usher in a fair and just system and improve educational institutions.
"I hope that he will begin improvements and come up with changes," she said, "unlike the recent former leaders of the country."
(Special correspondent Mohammed reported from Mogadishu and Times staff writer Dixon from Johannesburg, South Africa.)