The future of Somalia under the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh in light of regional transformations

Somali society pins its hopes on the elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud. If he manages to fulfill his promises to the country, the next phase of the country will be devoted to entering a new period of stability by enabling the country to hold popular elections and turning the page on elections with clan distribution and tribal quotas.


The coronation ceremony of the elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, on June 9, 2022, for a second term, enjoyed broad African and Arab participation, the day after an electoral marathon that lasted nearly two years, accompanied by severe political differences and security crises, as well as the deteriorating living situation of the country, as a result of An exacerbation of a drought crisis that threatens the lives of about 7 million Somalis in the south and center of the country, and the return of “Sheikh Mahmoud” to the presidential palace for a term that extends until 2026 came at a critical moment in which the country is experiencing internal and external problems, and some interpret the re-election of this man as a response to a real reconciliation between the components The local community is a strategic option to save the country from falling back into the trap of crises.

In this report, we highlight the reasons for the re-election of Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud after his first term between 2012 and 2016, and monitor the challenges and files awaiting the new president, which are formidable challenges that cannot be easily untied, in addition to anticipating the country’s future and the possibility of overcoming indirect elections by The year 2026 will lead to general elections, and Somalia has been at the center of international and regional attention in the Horn of Africa region since 2018.

Reasons for Sheikh Mahmoud’s victory: A reading of the results

After repeatedly postponing the process of organizing the presidential elections in Somalia for nearly two years, the Somali parliament decided in a joint session between the two houses (the people and the elders) to organize the presidential elections on the 15th of last May (1) . 39 candidates were registered to run in the electoral race, and with the start of the countdown to the presidential elections, six candidates withdrew from the competition, and the electoral battle was limited to 33 candidates, most of them new faces, with four strong candidates, including President Mohamed Abdullah Farmajo, and the two former presidents, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and the former Prime Minister, Hassan Ali Khairy, and the electoral competition intensified in the first round of the elections; The President of Puntland, Said Abdullahi Deni, received 65 votes, while President Farmajo received 59 votes, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud received 52 votes, Hassan Ali Khairi received 48 votes, and President Sharif Ahmed received 39 votes (2).

According to the Somali constitution, the candidate who receives two-thirds of the votes (219 votes) out of the total number of votes of the 329 deputies in the first round of the elections, wins the presidency. If this does not happen, the four candidates with the most votes (parliamentarians) go to the second round, after which the two candidates with the most votes go to the third and final round, and the candidate who gets 50 + 1 of the votes wins the presidency (3) .

After the end of the second round of the electoral competition, only two candidates were able to go to the third and final round, namely: President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo with 83 votes, and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who received 110 votes. The third round ended with Farmajo receiving 110 votes, enabling President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud to win by 214 votes, becoming the first Somali president to be elected for a second term since 1960 elections (4) .

The hard-earned presidential elections were considered a rescue and anticipation of the imposition of sanctions on Somalia by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, including the suspension of financial aid granted to Somalia to support its budget by 65 percent, while the federal government secures only 35 percent of it to pay the salaries of its employees and the dues of the Somali army. ; This hastened the process of organizing the presidential elections before the 17th of last May, the date set by the international bodies supporting Somalia to stop their financial aid to the federal government if the presidential elections are not held.

There are several reasons that contributed to the victory of President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud for a second term (2022-2026), the most prominent of which are:

  1. The political crisis in the country: Since the attempt to extend the term of the presidency and parliament in April 2021, the country has entered a wave of political disputes that erupted between the two heads of the executive authority in the country (the president and the prime minister), since October 2021, and almost turned To an armed conflict inside the presidential palace, due to fears that the fuse of tension between them would pull the trigger of the weapons deployed between the guards of the two presidents inside the palace.
  2. Fears of a civil conflict erupting in the country: Many believed that the possibility of Farmajo’s return was not promising, in the event of his return to power for a second term, because of his policy of repression and restrictions on the opposition, and the use of militarization of politics, political money and populist speeches betraying opposition figures, to confront his political opponents.
  3. Rising Clan Tensions: During the rule of President Muhammad Abdullah Farmajo, clan tensions and tensions increased, especially those residing in the south of the country, after imbalances marred the process of distributing power and the attempt to marginalize bullying tribes in the country’s political equation, according to the 4.5 rule on power-sharing in the country. The need to extinguish the fire of disputes between clans through a new consensual leadership, based on reconciliation as a bridge to contain differences and bridge the gap between tribes.
  4. The deterioration of Somalia’s foreign relations regionally and internationally: During the rule of President Farmajo (2017-2021), foreign ambassadors from the United Nations and the African Union were expelled under the pretext of protecting Somalia’s sovereignty and independence. Relationships with countries participating in the process of supporting state building in Somalia, particularly Washington, declined. As well as an escalating pace of disputes between the federal states and the Somali government, as a result of a misunderstanding in the management of the process of organizing the parliamentary and presidential elections.

The aforementioned factors and reasons combined to contribute to the success of President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s campaign, whose slogan was “A reconciled Somalia and reconciled with the world.” Among the many challenges, they can be detailed as follows:

Files and Challenges

The new president of Somalia inherits a number of challenges and thorny issues; As the country has not made convincing progress in stabilizing the pillars of the federal system, and effectively transforming the political system from a centralized system to a federal one, in addition to the aggravation of internal and external political crises, and the failure of efforts to bypass the political system that relies on the authority of tribesmen in organizing elections and distributing powers, which is Which makes the files more complex.

Following are the most prominent files awaiting the current presidency can be summarized in the following points:

  • Security and Reconciliation File:Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud confirmed, in a press statement after his election as president of the country, that the first 100 days of his presidency will be filled with many tasks, most notably: codifying legislation and laws for the spread of a decentralized federal security system throughout the country, through the enactment of new legislation related to The military institution, in agreement with the federal states, to ensure the security of the capital, Mogadishu, which has been facing a great security weight for years. To secure the capital and its environs, the elected president promised that the first defenses for the security of Mogadishu would be beyond the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, and to eliminate the outposts of the Al-Shabaab movement, expressing his readiness to cooperate with international partners to end the presence and the heavily armed ideological rebellion in the country.(5) .

The file of internal reconciliation, which has not achieved success for years, is among the files awaiting the current presidency, and it is a file that the elected president pays great attention to, to bring positions closer and solve thorny issues and issues through dialogue, both internally and externally. Based on this vision, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud started a tour of the five federal states (Jubaland, Puntland, Hirshabeli, Galmudug, southwestern Somalia) to strengthen the relationship between the center and the parties, and push the country towards a reconciled political system with it instead of the division and conflicts that impeded the efforts of Somalia’s progress towards forward. This is in addition to reviving the stalled negotiations track with Somaliland (Somaliland), which has also not achieved tangible progress in the past five years. The current president believes that dialogue is the only way to convince Somaliland politicians and discourage them from the idea of ​​secession, and pressure tools or withholding them from receiving their financial aid from the international community do not work to contain the political crisis between the two parts of the country.

  • The file of building state institutions: Somalia has recently witnessed remarkable progress in the gradual return of most official institutions, but their return is described as “structural” only, without formal institutionalization of this sector, which requires a tremendous effort to activate the work of these institutions in a way that enables them to provide services basic citizens, rather than just empty administrative structures; This makes it imperative for the new leadership to enact new legislation to control the work of these institutions, in addition to combating rampant corruption in the staff and state institutions, from the municipality to ministries and other service sectors. Despite the efforts of the international community, including international organizations, to support the building of state institutions, corruption is devouring these institutions to the fullest, which prompted the elected president to pledge to build these official institutions through the enactment of new legislation and laws.
  • Direct elections file: Among the outstanding issues and tasks since the former president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, assumed the task of leading the country to direct elections. Instead, clan-based elections were held in complicated security and political circumstances, with limited participation and not reflecting the aspirations of the vast majority of Somalis. With Sheikh Mahmoud’s return to the presidential palace again, hopes seem pinned on him to organize general elections, but the achievement of this file has many obstacles, the first of which are: completing the interim Somali constitution (the 2012 constitution), and secondly:

According to those close to the current presidency, the Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, will do his utmost to lead the country to general elections by the end of his second term, in 2026, elections whose popular base will be the youth group, which represents about 70 percent of Somali society.

  • foreign policy file: Somalia’s foreign policy in the past two years has been affected by the political tensions that the country witnessed, and it has been deeply affected by the geopolitical changes that took place in the Horn of Africa, after the emergence of regional powers and new blocs that changed the rules of the game in the region, and also stimulated the appetite of the emerging and dominant powers in the region. This made the tension and polarization between the countries of the Horn of Africa, especially Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea, exacerbate day after day, under the influence of international and Arab blocs that have a direct impact on the transformations that the countries of the region have witnessed since Abi Ahmed came to power in 2018. Somalia’s relations with Nairobi, Djibouti, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were somewhat intermittent, and those countries aspired to elect a new president for Somalia, in order to re-normalize its relations with Somalia after a prolonged stalemate in its relations with Mogadishu, and the new Somali leadership is expected to improve its foreign policy with neighboring countries. The Arab States, the African Union and the United Nations; To push forward the state-building process in Somalia.

Complications and obstacles in the nation-building process

The current Somali presidency faces many challenges and complications, in addition to the complex files that were discussed earlier. The total challenges that the elected president faces in his second term are summarized in two axes. If Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud succeeds in overcoming them, he can make convincing progress forward, but if he fails to cross its pitfalls with will and determination, he will leave a greater void and wider scars in the nation-building process in Somalia. These themes are:

  • The focus of the security challenge and internal political turmoil:The security dilemma that the Somali state suffers from, and how to reform it and face the security challenge, has dominated the campaign programs of the elected president, which reflects the desire of elected Somali leaders in every presidential entitlement to impose security and stability, but the mechanism for implementing their security plans and facing security challenges is always dominated by movement attacks. Al-Shabab, which gradually disappears from view at the beginning of each presidential term, but regains its influence with the approaching end of each term, and the security services are preoccupied with the political disputes that usually erupt between the Somali presidency and the federal government or between heads of federal states on the other hand, which undermines years of efforts to undermine groups Opponents of the Somali state, especially the “Mujahideen Youth”and the Islamic State’s branch in Somalia (ISIS), and this challenge can be overcome by restoring the Somali army’s dignity, codifying laws and legislation to control the work of security agencies and coordinating their efforts, and combating corruption within the Somali military system, in preparation for its independence and not being dragged into disputes between Somali leaders by using it. A machine to suppress an opposition political party(6) .

The political turmoil in Somalia since the collapse of the central system, in 1991, represents a major challenge facing the current president, which means that the continuation of political differences, especially with regard to the relationship of the Somali presidency with the parliament on the one hand and the federal government on the other hand, and heads of federal states, thirdly, serves as Possible political mines, if the elected president is unable to reunite all parties by opening channels of dialogue, which is what President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud aims for from his tour towards the federal states, in which he holds meetings with the heads of the five federal states, with the aim of maintaining political stability and supporting The efforts of the nascent state to solve the existing issues and problems through dialogue and negotiations. Political stability within the government house is among the conditions for achieving a security improvement in the country, and limiting the impact of external interference in Somali affairs (7) .

  • The focus of the challenge of external interventions:Somalia is still considered a fragile and weak state affected by external interventions, specifically by neighboring countries that participate in the Transitional African Peacekeeping Force (ATMS); This provides a wider margin for maneuver and pressure on the Mogadishu government to pass its political agendas, which impedes efforts to impose security stability in the country, and the influence of the Gulf states has become clear in recent years, especially from the United Arab Emirates, which plays contradictory roles in the Somali political scene, from By linking its partnership and strengthening its ties with the Republic of the so-called “Somaliland” and the state of Puntland, without direct coordination with the Mogadishu government, which explains the existence of a state of political stalemate in the foreign policy of “Abu Dhabi”. Regarding the Somali issue, will the new president of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, reduce the ceiling of his country’s diplomatic dealings with those Somali regimes in eastern and northern Somalia (Somaliland and Puntland) and cooperate directly with the new presidency in Somalia in support of the transformation that the country has undergone? Ethiopia’s policy towards Somalia is limited to the security field and confronting the threat of Al-Shabab in its own backyard, based on the policy of not transferring the security threats coming from Somalia to the Ethiopian depth, which sums up the objectives of the Ethiopian military intervention and the reason for the presence of thousands of Ethiopian soldiers within the peacekeeping forces The African Union is in southern Somalia, and its operations inside the country are also moving according to the data of the Ethiopian war, especially the conflict in the Tigray region, which continues between ebb and flow. The Ethiopian leadership withdraws a number of its soldiers from Somalia, if the need arises, and then sends them back to Somalia(8) .

Internationally, the impact of international interventions in Somali politics varies between the countries that support the state-building process in Somalia, and the threats of the European Union and the United Nations to cut off aid to Somalia in every new political dispute that erupts between Somali leaders is a kind of intervention and international pressure imposed on Somalia, in application of the saying: “He who does not have his power does not have his decision,” but he intervened in the eyes of many to save me and responds to the desire of many of the opposition mosaic to pressure the Somali governments, if they do not respond to the opposition’s demands or deviate from the work paths of the constitution and the socially enforced regulations in the distribution of powers, but this interference Negative in general in terms of the different and differing visions of the positions of European countries and the African Union regarding the political system in Somalia, which makes Somalia an arena for settling regional and international accounts at times, as well as international competition between Russia and China on the one hand and America on the other hand in the region.

The future of Somalia in light of changing regional transformations

In recent years, Somalia has become a major player and an important part in the process of transformation and geopolitical changes that the countries of the Horn of Africa have witnessed since 2017, either as a strong ally with Ethiopia led by Abi Ahmed and a partner with Eritrea, or through its internal fluctuations and the increasing volume of international interference and attention to it, regionally internationally, especially between China and the United States of America; Beijing aspires to the possibility of inaugurating a second military base in East Africa after its base in Djibouti, specifically in Somalia, which brings the region back to a time of polarization and tensions between the greats.

Despite the end of the period of political unrest in the country with the election of a new president, the most difficult challenges dominating Somalia’s foreign policy remain, which is how to evade the doors of diplomatic relations while not engaging in regional alliances and blocs in which Somalia is not an active party or the largest beneficiary of its results, but rather attracts the attention of New opponents towards him, who is in no need of entering a political conflict with them, then adopting a more calm and balanced foreign policy, the principle of which is “zero problems” with everyone, that puts Somalia’s foreign policy in the framework of a new direction, after three years of diplomatic tensions between Mogadishu and regional countries and some Arab countries Especially after the blockade of Qatar in 2018, as a result of the Somali foreign policy positions towards the Tigray region crisis on the one hand, and the inauguration of a new relationship with Eritrea by Ethiopia on the other hand, in addition to Somalia’s neutral stance towards the Gulf crisis in 2018 (9) .

This, and the vision of Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, in his foreign policy, is centered on two equations to settle the problems of the nascent state with the world, which is to impose internal security and political stability. In terms of security stability, he wants to undermine the influence of Al-Shabaab and make the capital, Mogadishu, safe by a policy of transferring the war to the Al-Shabaab den in the areas it controls, in cooperation with the United States of America and the African Union Mission, to correct the security equation in the country. Politically, Sheikh Mahmoud seeks to impose reconciliation between the central government in Mogadishu and the federal states, in search of sure political stability, while socially it aims to promote reconciliation between the components of Somali society, in order to put an end to the political strife fueled by the process of organizing the parliamentary and presidential elections among the Somali clans in the country. And contain the grudges buried in the hearts of many that have not yet been restored in a way that pushes them to tolerance, based on the saying of Sheikh Mahmoud:

The absence of a foreign political vision for the Somali state since its collapse in the early nineties has left the Somali governments with several problems, including the absence of the element of sustainability and continuity in the Somali external orientation, as a result of the internal turmoil that the country has experienced, and the political differences that constantly topple the Somali governments, and the emergency amendments that include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs portfolio, This is what confuses the state’s external orientation, which is what happened during the rule of the President, Muhammad Abdullah Farmajo, when this position was assigned to four ministers with different orientations and ideas, without the availability of a specific external orientation, which necessitates the current presidency to formulate a specific foreign policy framework and directions, instead of relying On floating policy amidst the turmoil, as well as the effects of foreign policy, regional and international, directed or antagonistic towards Somalia, which doubles the size of the external challenges facing Somalia in the coming period, if it does not achieve the conditions for internal stability first and correct the country’s foreign policy compass(10) . 

a summary

In the end, Somalia seems to be moving slowly out of the pitfalls of political and security failure and gradually progressing towards recovery. With each electoral period, internal and external political and security challenges increase, and increase like mushrooms, and every new head of state inherits the same challenges, which are complex and multiplicative, in addition to the awaited tasks that are surrounded by complications. And difficulties, in contrast to the lack of material resources and human competencies to confront these challenges and overcome their difficulties. The Somali state still depends on the international community, in security and economic terms, and external interventions and external support conditional on the implementation of certain policies are not related to the country’s interest, neither closely nor far.

It is noteworthy that President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud, who was crowned for a second term, has a historic opportunity to put Somalia on the path of security and political stability, and not to repeat his previous administrative mistakes, and to benefit from the experiences and failures of his predecessors, and not to fall into the trap of political and security crises, and push the country forward. Despite the state’s lack of material capabilities and the reduced level of international response to humanitarian and economic intervention.

Somali society pins its hopes on the elected president, Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud. If he manages to fulfill his promises to the country, the next phase of the country will be devoted to entering a new period of stability by enabling the country to hold popular elections, turning the page on elections with clan distribution and tribal quotas, and directing foreign and local investment. To invest the country’s agricultural, marine, and oil wealth, and not to provide the opportunity for external interventions and opposing groups, but the condition is to prevent a recurrence of the failures that Somalia experienced three decades ago.

About the author

Shafi'i start

Shafi’i start

Somali researcher interested in issues of the Horn of AfricaREFERENCE

(1) Somalia: Lawmakers to decide president on May 15, Aljazeera.com, 06 May 2022, (Visited on : 20 May 2022), https://bit.ly/3NDuJjd

(2) Somalia elects Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as new president, Aljazeera.com, 15 May 2022, (Visited on : 20 May 2022), https://bit.ly/3HaEqTG

(3)Somalia: 39 Presidential Candidates Reproducing Promises, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, May 14, 2022, (entry date: May 20, 2022), https://bit.ly/3tu22wR

(4)Hassan Sheikh Mohamud .. President of Somalia for the second time, Anadolu Agency, May 16, 2020, (entry date: May 20, 2022), https://bit.ly/3xEC7F6

(5)Electoral candidate Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud’s speech to parliamentarians, Somalia Cable Channel, May 11, 2022, (entry date: May 20, 2022), https://bit.ly/3aMfLbT

(6)The new tasks of the African Union Mission in Somalia: chances of success and potential for failure, Al Jazeera Center for Studies, May 15, 2022, (date of entry: May 25, 2022), https://bit.ly/3xgKRjD

(7) Somalia: Hassan Sheikh Reaches Galmudug State, Allafrica.com, 02 June 2022, (Visited on : 4 June 2022), https://bit.ly/3aFiq7f

(8)The new tasks of the African Union Mission in Somalia, op.

(9)Indicators of Ethiopian reconciliation: the beneficiaries and those affected by it locally and regionally, Al Jazeera Center for Studies, May 11, 2022, (date of entry: May 28, 2022), https://bit.ly/3Mxyo0w

(10) A Welcome Chance for a Reset in Somalia, crisisgroup, 31 May 2022, (Visited On : 09 June 9, 2022), https://bit.ly/398zW3g

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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