(Formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

President-elect vows to stabilise war-torn country

Map of Somalia
IRIN

A veteran Somali politician and former military officer, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, won Sunday's presidential election held in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and immediately vowed to re-establish stability in the Horn of Africa country, ravaged by factional warfare since 1991.

"Having given me the honour by electing me, I pledge before you and the international community to work hard to reconcile Somalis to bring back peace and security and revive the country," said the 69-year-old Yusuf soon after he was declared Somalia's president-elect.

Yusuf, who was declared winner in the run-off round of the poll, has served as president of the northeastern self-declared autonomous region of Puntland since 1998. He beat his rival, former cabinet minister and diplomat Abdullahi Ahmed Addow by 189 to 79 of the votes cast by members of the transitional-federal parliament which was constituted in August.

Twenty-four candidates were either eliminated in the first round or withdrew from the race.

"I will do my best to serve you but if I am unable, I will go back to parliament and ask them to elect another president," pledged Abdullahi Yusuf. He urged the international community to "assist us in reconstruction".

Conceding defeat, Addow, said he would help the new government "in any capacity" to restore peace and propriety in Somalia.

Somalia ceased to function as a modern state in 1991 when armed groups overthrew the regime of Muhammad Siyad Barre, precipitating a ruinous civil war that saw numerous warring warlords and their militias curve the country into fiefdoms.

Numerous attempts to end anarchy in Somalia have failed. A reconciliation conference in Djibouti in 2000 led to the appointment of Abdulkassim Salad Hassan as president, but his administration was only able to exert authority in some parts of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and a few pockets of territory in the south of the country. Hassan was one of the candidates who withdrew from Sunday's presidential election after the first round. He had got 15 votes from members of the 275-strong parliament.

Candidates had, before polling began, signed a declaration pledging to accept the result and to hand any weapons in the possession of their militias to the new government.

The newly elected president is expected to appoint a prime minister, who will form a cabinet before the new administration can relocate to Mogadishu. The president and his government have a five-year mandate, after which, general elections will be held inside Somalia.

The administration in the self-declared republic of Somaliland in the northwest, which announced its break away from the rest of Somalia following Barre's overthrow, refused to take part in the two-year reconciliation conference in Kenya. The conference culminated in Sunday's presidential elections and was sponsored by the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The new president was born in 1934 and studied law in the Somali National University before going to the former Soviet Union and later to Italy for military studies. He was Somalia’s military attaché to Moscow between 1965 and 1968.

Barre detained him for several years when he refused to support his seizure of power in Mogadishu in 1969.

Yusuf, a member of the Darod clan, was one of a group of people who in 1978 tried to oust Barre in a failed coup. Most of the coup plotters were executed, but Abdullahi Yusuf managed to flee the country. Later that year, he formed the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, one of the first armed groups to wage a military campaign against Barre's regime.

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