Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed sought to downplay high expectations of his new administration at his inauguration Wednesday, saying it would take decades to fix the nation’s many problems.
"Our government is facing so many challenges and even though I will be doing my best, I also want to make clear for the Somali public that due to limited resources regarding economy and forces of security, what we could do is going to be limited," he said.
The president, widely known by his nickname Farmajo, officially took office last week, but his inauguration was held Wednesday in the presence of several regional leaders.
The ceremony took place in the highly secured airport zone to avoid an attack by the Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab group, which has threatened a "vicious war" against the new government.
Decades of conflict
The election of the no-nonsense Farmajo — whose brief stint as prime minister in 2010-11 is fondly remembered — sparked elation in a country desperate for an end to decades of conflict and anarchy.
But he warned the country that there would be no quick fixes.
"Your problems were created during twenty years of conflict and droughts. A solution will need more than another twenty years," he said.
Farmajo said he would focus on "the basic essential problems" but that his work would have to be carried on by future governments.
President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, as well as delegations from Kuwait and Egypt, attended the ceremony.
Millions going hungry
Farmajo said that insecurity along with a cycle of droughts which have parts of Somalia at risk of famine were the main challenges facing his administration.
The UN says about six million Somalis need humanitarian assistance, and three million are in the official "crisis" and "emergency" zone of food insecurity, which means they are suffering acute malnutrition and going long periods without meals.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the collapse of Siad Barre’s military regime in 1991, which led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.
The Shabaab was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but the jihadists still control parts of the countryside and carry out attacks against government, military and civilian targets, seemingly at will, in Mogadishu and regional towns.
"With my leadership, I promise Somalia will regain its respect and integrity," Farmajo said.
He said the long list of things that needed to be accomplished included "completion of the reconciliation among Somali clans, improving law and order and the justice system (and) regaining of the confidence by the Somali public to their government."
He said he would focus on rebuilding an army capable of serving a country whose security is still largely assured by 20,000 regional troops with the African Union’s AMISOM peacekeeping force, which plans to withdraw in 2018.
In a sign of the challenges facing Farmajo’s administration, a car bomb at a busy market on Sunday killed 39 people.
900 killed last year
The president has offered a $100,000 reward for information on who carried out the attack, attributed to Al-Shabaab, or on potential strikes.
"Al-Shabaab killed about 900 innocent Somalis, most of them children, women and elderly, during attacks and blasts last year ... I am telling you that killing a number of people and destroying property will not deter Somalis," Farmajo said.
In his speech he reached out to youths who are fighting alongside extremists, suggesting the government would offer them alternatives to a life of violence.
"Somalia is united today and we are telling the misguided Somali youngsters to abstain from detonating themselves into their people and not to destroy the property of their country."
"We are ready to welcome those misguided youths with open hands and to provide them with incentives to start up their business," he said.