Following Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo’s victory in Wednesday’s presidential election in Somalia, the African Union has stated that it will begin gradually exiting the country.
Farmaajo, a technocrat and peace-builder widely admired throughout Somalia, is seen as being uniquely capable of bringing about genuine peace and reconciliation in the country. The so-called ‘Farmaajo effect’ has already seen a cascading number of positive news throughout the country since he was elected on Wednesday.
“Now that the government is in power, we are starting [to plan] at the African Union when we are going to leave Somalia,” said Sivuliye Bam, head of the AU’s Peace Support Operations Division on Friday.
The African Union has been in Somalia for close to a decade fighting a violent Islamic insurgency ravaging the South and Central regions of the country. While its peacekeepers have made major progress in ejecting the terror group from most urban areas, the group still controls large parts of the countryside and the AU has become unpopular for inflicting heavy civilian causalities. Many Somalis also view the presence of 20,000 AU peace keepers as a threat to their sovereignty and want indigenous forces to assume control of safeguarding the country.
Farmaajo enjoys widespread cross-clan support and his victory was marked by mass public celebrations throughout Somalia. The former Somali president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who served as president since 2012 and who had a reputation for corruption and divisive clan politics, quickly accepted Farmaajo’s victory and began a smooth transition of power.
Farmaajo has promised to negotiate with Al-Shabaab to end the violence, and following his election a commander of a major segment of the group announced that he will surrender to the government.