Reuters reports: Yusuf Garaad left his comfortable home and job as head of the BBC Somali Service in London to run for the presidency of Somalia when the Horn of Africa nation embraced a plan to shed its image as the archetypal failed state.
He is one of several new faces who have returned home to try and lead the country out of two decades of lawlessness and violence at the hands of gun-toting militias, fanatical Islamist militants and rapacious pirates.
“I watched for so long from afar, not doing anything but reporting and pretending it was not up to me to do something,” Garaad told Reuters in his villa in the capital Mogadishu.
Since the outbreak of civil conflict in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country, but now there is opportunity to close that long chapter in a regionally brokered and U.N.-backed roadmap.
As part of that process, a speaker of a reformed parliament and a new president should have been elected before August 20.
In spite of heavy cajoling by donors, that deadline has been missed, though Western diplomats hope the delay will be just a few weeks. The bigger question is whether the new government can represent a break from the string of ineffective interim administrations of recent years.
Garaad and other newcomer contenders for the presidency are up against a determined phalanx of old-guard politicians. The top leaders of the existing transitional federal government (TFG) are all competing to be president.
So while the end of the interim administration is being touted as a new dawn in Somali politics, there are fears the new government will look much like previous ones, with the same security problems, corruption and fractious clan politics.
“If the current TFG leadership succeeds in manipulating the outcome, the end of the transition will be in some ways a distinction without a difference,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert and professor of political science at Davidson College.
By Monday, a new slimmed-down parliament is expected to convene, though not all members will have been appointed. About 220 of the 275 parliamentarians have so far been selected. [Continue reading…]