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Somalis welcome new prime minister but see difficult road ahead

Tuesday, October 09, 2012
By Mahmoud Mohamed and Hassan Muse Hussein

Somalia's newly appointed Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon is congratulated by members of parliament on October 6th. [Abdurashid Abdulle/AFP]

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Somalis welcomed the decision of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to name Abdi Farah Shirdon the country's new prime minister, but many realise the daunting challenges he faces moving forward.

A number of cities across Somalia, including Buuhoodle and Dhusamareb, the birthplace of the new prime minister, witnessed mass demonstrations in support of Shirdon on Saturday (October 6th).

"Choosing someone who has an economics background and experience is a better choice that is in line with the current stage and the need for reconstruction of Somalia," said Abdullahi Osman, an economist at Indian Ocean University in Mogadishu.

"Somalia is now going through a historical period that requires a competent leadership and a new vision, and the selection of Shirdon for prime minister is quite successful because he is an educated man and has adequate knowledge that makes him qualified for this post," Osman told Sabahi.

"Somalia is now taking a new trajectory by electing a new generation of intellectuals as leaders," he said. "The prime minister is an untainted man that has not been involved in volatile tribal politics. He is a clean man and is open to dealing with all political persuasions."

Political analyst Omar Dahir, who heads the Centre for Moderation and Dialogue in Mogadishu, said it is premature to judge the new prime minister and his new government.

"Although the new prime minister is an educated man and an economist, he is new to politics and so he has to be given an opportunity and then we can pass judgment after seeing his performance, his political programme and how he will form his government," Dahir told Sabahi

Mogadishu-based political analyst Hassan Mohamed said a difficult road awaits the new prime minister, including dealing with the challenges of leading the country's transition towards democracy, confronting security challenges, fighting terrorism, sustaining peace and rebuilding the state's institutions.

"These tasks are not impossible if the prime minister manages to put together a competent ministerial team that will work with him to lift the country out of the crisis it has been going through for the past two decades," Mohamed told Sabahi.

Prime minister vows to restore security and fight corruption
During his first speech after he was selected, Shirdon said, "Establishing security, restoring the rule of law, reviving the economy and building effective state institutions are the top priorities of my government."

"My upcoming government will not tolerate corruption and mismanagement," he added.

"I will form a top notch government within the next couple of weeks after consulting with the president, members of parliament and various other parties," Shirdon said.

Shirdon's appointment requires the approval of members of parliament. After that step, the prime minister will select his cabinet members who will have to receive a vote of confidence from parliament within 30 days.

According to the new Somali constitution, the new government will include 18 ministers distributed in accordance with the tribal quota system.

About the new prime minister
Abdi Farah Shirdon, popularly known as Saaid, is a businessman and a newcomer to politics. He has no professional or political experience inside Somalia in the past twenty years. He has never been a minister nor has he filled any senior official position.

Shirdon was born in 1958 in the city of Dhusamareb, capital of Galguduud region, in central Somalia to a middle class family.

After completing his secondary education, Shirdon moved to Mogadishu to study at the Somali National University, from which he graduated with honours in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in economics.

From 1983 to 1985, he worked as an economist with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture and then moved on to working in the private sector.

In 1986, he started a business called Shirdon International and was chief executive officer of the company until the collapse of the Somali state in 1991.

After that, Shirdon moved to Nairobi and became a prominent businessman.

From March 2012 until he was appointed as prime minister, Shirdon was the chairman of Rajo Forum, an organisation comprised of politicians, professionals, businessmen and intellectuals who are concerned with peace and reconciliation efforts among Somali parties.

Shirdon is married to political activist and member of the current parliament, Aisha Haj Alami, with whom he has four children. He speaks Somali, Italian and English.

Puntland welcomes Shirdon
The Puntland administration welcomed the naming of Shirdon as prime minister and called for the implementation and completion of the federal system of governance.

Puntland Minister of Information Mohamud Aideed Dirir said the regional administration is ready to partner with new government to strengthen Somalia's new federal system.

"Puntland will work with the federal government to accomplish agreements reached previously by both parties, including safeguarding the federal constitution and supporting the establishment of [other] regional administrations that will be part of the federation," he told Sabahi.

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