This article describes how social media users have commented on the events around the Somali presidential election, and observations of tensions and celebrations in the streets of Mogadishu and online. It aims to illustrate the ways the Internet provided a space for political discussions between Somalis.
When the US ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz, met the new president of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as ‘Farmaajo’, a US citizen, he presented him with a Trump cap with the slogan “Make Somalia Great Again.” The ambassador’s gesture echoed the widespread celebrations in Somali communities across the world—from Mogadishu to Nairobi to Buffalo and Minneapolis—and an unprecedented level of optimism and expectations in the new administration. In order to understand the upbeat response to Farmaajo’s election and his popularity, the context of his electoral victory must be taken into account.
The election of a new Somalia President on the 8th of February was a promising sign for Somalia’s nascent democracy especially for women and members of minority groups to dream of becoming President of Somalia one day. The elections were promising in the sense that the incumbent lost by a wider margin than anyone had expected, despite having all the advantages of incumbency such as money, influence and connections. It is a hopeful sign for women and other marginalized groups that someone can win the presidency partly due to their competence.
Is there a relationship between 2017 elections in Somalia and Somaliland? The answer is ‘yes’ – albeit with the rejoinder that ‘it’s complicated’. Much of this complexity lies in the ambiguities of the political-geographical terminology used and intense competition over the politics of naming ‘states’, ‘territories’, ‘administrations’ and ‘regions’.
Politico-security dimensions are often privileged in considering the question of electoral sustainability in countries in transition. Somalia is no exception, even as it is an outlier. It is striking that in the last decade, from Afghanistan to Iraq to the Central African Republic, all countries mired with persistent and unrelenting security challenges, comprehensive, near universal suffrage elections have been held. Somalia has not joined these ranks. Its repeated recourse to ‘selectocracy’ demonstrates the persistence of the fragmented central state authority, nominally existing in Mogadishu, and how power continues to be contested in ways few other states still face.