Eyes on Villa Somalia: Campaigners hit the roadBy ABDULKADIR KHALIF in Mogadishu | Thursday, July 19 2012 at 11:14
Flanked by his two wives, the leader of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, officially announced his candidacy for re-election, as the term of the TFG comes to and end.
This was at an occasion at the City Palace Hotel in North Mogadishu that attracted different groups including. politicians, traditional elders, women, youth and artistes. Here, the transitional president announced what many have known for long: his interest to run as a presidential candidate in the upcoming election.
According to the 'roadmap' agreed by Somali politicians in September 2012, a legislative body is to be formed before the end of the TFG’s term. A head of state is also to be elected on or before August 20, 2012. Some analysts maintain that the end of the TFG is on August 22, 2012.
President Ahmed’s supporters came to the hotel in masses, waving flags, holding banners with slogans and others displaying his portraits.
“Our president is relatively young and can serve his nation for the coming ten years,” said an elder who spoke at the gathering. The president is 48.
According to official information, President Ahmed was born in 1964 and received his primary and secondary education in Mogadishu. He studied Law and Islamic Sharia in Libya and Sudan.
President Ahmed first came into the political limelight in Somalia in 2006, when he was elected as the executive leader of the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC) that defeated the warlords who ruled Southern Somalia for more than a decade and half.
The UIC had seized most of the southern and central regions of Somalia before it was crushed by Ethiopian troops supporting the TFG led by Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed in December 2006.
The sheikh and his followers fled to Jubaland in Southern Somalia and eventually co-founded the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) in Asmara, Eritrea in September 2007. A section of the ARS led by Sheikh Ahmed later signed an agreement with the TFG in 2008.
When the Transitional Federal Parliament was expanded from 275 to 550 MPs, Ahmed was elected President of Somalia in January 2009. Since then, his administration has been battling radical Islamist groups that emerged under the banners of Hizbu Islam and Al-Shabaab.
Al-Shabaab, which has dominated the opposition to the TFG since December 2010, merged with Al-Qaeda in February this year. However, the fanatical militants kept on losing grounds as the pro-government fighters received support from AU’s Amisom peacekeepers and from Ethiopian troops.
With just over a month left before the end of the TFG’s term, President Ahmed is facing presidential candidates of diverse backgrounds.
He is expected to face tough challenges from fellow politicians, former prime ministers, ex-portfolio holders, academicians and professionals, each of them hoping to occupy Villa Somalia come August 2012.
Strong contenders include former prime minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi who held the premiership between 2004 and 2007. He announced his candidacy for the presidency of Somalia in Nairobi, Kenya.
Another contender is Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, another former premier, who served between 2010 and2011. Like other groupings with unregistered political parties in Somalia, he plans to use the political manifesto of the unregistered Tayo Party.
There is also another former premier Mohamed Farmajo, who lives in the United States, plus several other diaspora Somalis have expressed their interest in the presidential job.
Prof Ahmed Ismael Samatar, one of the more celebrated US-based Somalis, co-formed a political forum called Hiil-Qaran. He recently launched his presidential candidacy in Mogadishu.
Dr Abdurahman Moalim Abdullahi alias Badiyow, a McGill university-educated in Canada and one of the strongest members of Al-Islah, a very moderate Islamic association, pronounced his will to serve Somalia as president.
Other contestants will include Professor Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, a former dean of Simad University in Mogadishu and chairman of the equally unregistered Peace and Democracy Party (PDP) and Mr Abdurahman Abdishakur Warsame who once held the planning and international portfolio in the Somali council of ministers.
So far, its all guns blazing with the candidates sparing no tactics to enhance their visibility.
Excited meetings with elders, women groups, youth activists and even visits to orphanages and schools are part of the campaign strategies, in a bid to identify with community problems. Hand-outs at displaced peoples’ camps and other gestures to the needy have also been employed.
Somalia’s current prime minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, has yet to announce his candidacy for the presidential seat. He is expected to join the race nonetheless. But his interest was made public by his wife, Ms Hodan Said Issa, at a public forum in the State of Minnesota, USA.
The Harvard-trained economist has been serving as PM since July 2011.
Ahead of the polls, there are diverse opinions. But the fact that it will be a crowded affair seems obvious, says Mogadishu political analyst Mohamoud Hassan.
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