Grand Island’s Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is concentrating on rebuilding his native country. It won’t be easy, but with an already demonstrated fortitude under adverse conditions, Mohamed appears to be the right choice as Somalia’s new president.
Mohamed was inaugurated Wednesday. There is no time for a political honeymoon with so many issues to deal with. Somalia has been besieged by violence while gaining a reputation as a sanctuary for terrorists – it is one of the seven countries covered by President Trump’s now-overturned travel ban. And there is a drought that could lead to a famine this spring.
Somalia’s central government has for decades been nonfunctioning and corrupt. Back in 2011, Mohamed resigned as the country’s prime minister, a position he held for less than a year, after falling victim to clan politics. His ouster spurred an outpouring of protesters sorry to see him go. The Grand Island resident enjoys huge popularity among Somalians tired of corruption.
Mohamed outpaced more than 20 candidates in the recent indirect election for president involving clans and subclans and 329 members of Parliament. As reported in the media, Western officials considered a direct election too dangerous because of the threat from the Shabab terrorist group, one of the most violent branches of al-Qaida.
Makau Mutua, former dean of the University at Buffalo School of Law who was born in Kenya, said: “I don’t think they have seen the likes of someone like him in Somalia in decades.”
In a recent News article about Mohamed, reporter Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich delved into the path to the presidency by this well-respected Somali and American citizen.
Mohamed, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UB in 1993 and received his master’s degree in American studies – thesis: “U.S. Strategic Interest in Somalia: From the Cold War Era to the War on Terror” – became well known in Erie County politics as a volunteer. A Republican, he gained a reputation among friends as a people person, Radlich wrote.
Early in 2010, friends arranged a meeting at the United Nations between Mohamed and Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. From that meeting, he became a serious candidate for prime minister. Although he held the job for only eight months, he managed to denounce corruption, reduce the size of the Cabinet and start to pay soldiers.
Mohamed returned to Buffalo and back to his job at the state Department of Transportation dealing with affirmative action issues and contract compliance. He also stayed focused on his besieged native land and spent nearly a year campaigning for the presidency, intending to make a difference for Somalis.
Mohamed is also a Twitter fan. He is known by his nickname “Formaajo,” short for “formaggio,” Italian for cheese, which is part of his official personal Twitter account handle, @M_Farmaajo. He retweeted a photo of himself posing in Somalia with the U.S. ambassador to Somalia, Stephen M. Schwartz, who attended Williamsville South High School. The two men are holding a baseball cap with a twist on a phrase that has become well-known in this country: “Make Somalia Great Again.”
If he can do that he will have pulled off one of the great feats in global affairs.