Somalia’s new president better positioned to rebuild military and improve relations with regions, but Ethiopia likely marginalised

15 February 2017

Key Points

  • President Mohamed commands greater loyalty in the Somali National Army (SNA) than did predecessor Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and takes a more agnostic view of clan affiliation that better positions him to engage with Somalia’s regional administrations.
  • Bilateral US military support is likely to increase, although Ethiopian commercial and political interests will be marginalised, with competition between Emirati and Turkish interests emerging as the main commercial rivalry.
  • The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) will lack a sustainable military strategy to defeat Al-Shabaab after 2018, and will more likely rely on diplomatic solutions.


Somalia’s 329 newly appointed lawmakers elected former prime minister and leader of the Tayo Political Party (TPT) Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as ‘Farmaajo’) as president on 8 February.

Newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed won a second round in the election by 184 votes to incumbent president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s 97 votes, the largest mandate since 1967. Mohamed, who is from the majority Darod clan, faced strong opposition from Mohamud, who was most notably supported by Ethiopia, and to a lesser extent the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, which have growing commercial and military interests in Somalia.

Unlike Mohamud, Mohamed takes a more agnostic view of clan affiliation, indicating he will be more capable of forming an inclusive cabinet that undermines the political dominance of his predecessor’s Hawiye clan. This would facilitate the policy mandate Mohamed pursued during his tenure as prime minister under former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed from October 2010 to November 2011. Mohamed’s resignation in June 2011 following Ahmed’s decision to extend his term was met with widespread protests, particularly within the military. This signalled across-clan support for Mohamed among Somalia’s citizens and the military that the new president continues to enjoy.

Mohamed’s first challenge is to rebuild the Somali National Army (SNA) into a force able to effectively combat Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) without significant external support.

Source: Janes.