​New Somali President Wants His

Country Off Immigration Ban

Somalia’s new president says he

will work to have his country

removed from the list of nations

whose citizens were — and may

yet be — barred from entering the

United States. Mohamed

Abdullahi Mohamed, more

commonly known as “Farmajo,”

told VOA of his plans in an

phone interview late Thursday, a

day after his unexpected victory

in the Somali presidential

election. “It is part of my

responsibility to talk this issue

with the U.S. government by

conveying our message to the

president and his government

that the Somali people are really

good, hard working people,”

Farmajo said. “They raise their

families in the United States. So

we will see if he can change that

policy and excludes Somalis

from that list.” The future of the

so-called “immigration ban” is in

doubt after the U.S. 9th Circuit

Court of Appeals upheld a

judge’s restraining order against

directives that temporarily halted

refugee resettlement programs

and barred visitors from Somalia

and six other Muslim-majority

countries. President Donald

Trump has vowed on Twitter to

challenge the decision, setting

up a possible showdown in the

Supreme Court. Farmajo is a dual

U.S. and Somali citizen who has

spent much of his adult life in

the United States, mostly in the

northern city of Buffalo. That

didn’t stop Somali parliament

members from choosing him

Wednesday over incumbent

leader Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

and 20 other candidates to

become the nation’s 9th

president. Farmajo told VOA his

first priority is to appoint a new

prime minister who will be in

charge of dealing with Somalia’s

security problems and a

developing humanitarian crisis.

“There is a huge drought

everywhere in Somalia which

definitely will produce a famine,”

he said. “We have to appeal to

the international community to

provide humanitarian assistance

to those affected people in

Somalia.” Following two seasons

of weak rainfall, the country is

experiencing severe drought and

the United Nations has warned of

the potential for a repeat of the

2011 famine that killed more than

250,000 people. He said he

expects that the new prime

minister can assemble a new

cabinet in 30 days, and said they

will roll out a plan of action in

the coming 100 days. The new

president admitted Thursday he

is still adjusting to his new role.

“My feeling is surreal. My feeling

is something I cannot imagine

because I have been working

hard for the past fifteen, sixteen

months and I have been

campaigning in Somalia as well

as in Nairobi,” he said. Broad

public support Farmajo

previously served as prime

minister for eight months in 2010

and 2011 and has remained

extremely popular since then,

said Sakariye Cismaan, a London-

based Somali political analyst.

During his time in office, Farmajo

was credited with ensuring that

government workers and soldiers

were paid on time, cracking

down on corruption and helping

liberate territories from al-


“The Somali people

really trust him and believe he

will put the common good before

his own self-interest,” Cismaan

said. “The whole country is

extremely optimistic now.”

Wednesday’s election was

conducted by the 328 members

of the two houses of parliament.

This is different than previous

elections where clan elders

played a significant role in

choosing the president, Cismaan

said. He said it was also more

representative of the will of the

people. “It is the most diverse

[electorate] in terms of gender

and age, and I think they were

sick of the corruption that was

taking place throughout the

election season and decided to

vote for the candidate the public

actually wanted,” he said.

Cismaan said Farmajo’s main

concern will be the security

situation in the country. Although

al-Shabab has been driven out of

the major population centers and

controls less than 10 percent of

the country’s territory, the

Islamist militant group remains a

potent threat, bombing hotels in

Mogadishu and attacking military

bases. Wednesday’s election was

moved to Mogadishu’s Aden

Adde International Airport, one of

the few secure places in the

country, following threats from

al-Shabab and worries about

security at the original venue, the

Mogadishu police academy.

“Security is going to be his

biggest challenge and the main

issue that he will ultimately be

judged on,” Cismaan said. “But

he really has a golden

opportunity here. He has the

entire population behind him who

are now feeling more patriotic

than ever. He can use that

support to delegitimize al-


Cali M Gaaboow


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