Former Prime Minister Elected as President of Somalia

The voting was streamed live online, and celebratory gunfire rang out in Mogadishu as Farmaajo moved ahead.

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. "It's a test for a maturing democracy", said Ahmed Ali, a Somali lawmaker.

The incumbent president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, is seeking re-election against 20 other candidates, including his predecessor, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and two former prime ministers. "We have taken this path to democracy".

The election process started in October, and lawmakers began voting Tuesday.

Although the election is billed as its most democratic in almost five decades, only 14,000 delegates were able to vote for the lawmakers who went on to elect the president. The 55-year-old politician is a father of four and holds both U.S. and Somali citizenship.

Many Somalis fondly remember the eight months when Farmajo - whose nickname means "cheese" - was prime minister in 2010-11. While he was in office, al-Shabab was expelled from Mogadishu, his campaign biography says.

Farmaajo was born in Mogadishu and once worked in the foreign ministry, which deployed him to Somalia's embassy in Washington in 1985.

Across Mogadishu, Somalis gathered around TV screens at cafes and homes, eagerly watching the vote.

As an American citizen, Farmajo will be able to travel to the United States despite the ban.


Suspected extremists fired two mortar rounds near the airport the night before the vote. There were no such attacks reported in the capital on Wednesday and no public statements by al-Shabab.

The new president, Farmajo, can travel to the US on his USA passport, Chicago Tribune reported. "This election is supposed to bring leadership that heals the country but if corruption plays an important role, many doubt whether Somalia is going to be on the right road". Due to the volatile security situation in the country, 14,000 clan elders and prominent regional figures first elected 275 members of parliament and 54 senators a year ago.

Somalia aims to hold direct elections in 2020, giving ordinary Somalis a chance to vote.

Somalia has been torn apart by war and starvation over the last quarter of a century, with countries like the US pouring billions of dollars of aid into the country.

"This is a crucial opportunity to accelerate progress and agree priorities that will help secure a brighter future for Somalia and its people", Johnson said. Years of conflict, al-Shabab attacks and starvation left this Horn of Africa country of about 12 million people largely shattered.

Since 2007, almost 22,000 African Union peacekeeping forces have been deployed to the impoverished country in a bid to assist the government's battle against al-Shabab.

And Somali refugees in Dadaab, the world's biggest refugee camp in eastern Kenya, also erupted with joy and sang the national anthem when hearing Farmajo had won, according to an AFP correspondent.

"This election has been awesome for the Shabab", Mohamed Mubarak, chief of the Somali anti-corruption group Marqaati, told the New York Times.

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