MOGADISHU, Somalia — A former prime minister who holds dual Somali-U.S. citizenship was elected Somalia's president on Wednesday, declaring a new "era of unity" as he took on the daunting task of bringing the long-chaotic country its first functioning central government in a quarter-century.
The historic vote was limited to lawmakers instead of the population at large, with members of the upper and lower houses of parliament casting ballots at a heavily guarded former air force base in the capital, Mogadishu, while a security lockdown closed the international airport.
"This victory belongs to the Somali people,” the newly elected president, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, declared after taking the oath of office. "This is the beginning of the era of unity, the democracy of Somalia and the beginning of the fight against corruption.”
Thousands of jubilant Somalis poured into the streets, chanting the new president’s name as cheering soldiers fired into the air. "Somalia will be another Somalia soon,” said Ahmed Ali, a police officer celebrating in the crowd.
The new president represents a generation of Somalis scattered abroad by conflict who cautiously have begun to return to help their homeland recover. Most of the candidates in the election held dual citizenship.
Across Mogadishu, Somalis had gathered around TV screens at cafes and homes, eagerly watching the vote. "We need an honest leader who can help us move forward,” said Ahmed Hassan, a 26-year-old university student.
Somalia’s instability landed it among the seven Muslim-majority countries affected by President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration, even though its government has been an increasingly important partner for the U.S. military on counterterrorism efforts, including drone strikes against al-Shabab leaders.
As an American citizen, Farmajo will be able to travel to the United States despite the ban.