Many Somalis expressed optimism after Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon announced his cabinet nominees on Sunday (November 4th) and called on members of parliament to give their vote of confidence to the new administration.
Parliament is expected to confirm the new cabinet in the coming days.
“After many long years of chaos and destruction in this country, the Somali people have high hopes for this new government to improve the security, political and economic situation in the country,” said Mogadishu-based political analyst Hassan Mohamed.
“I hope the new government will be more efficient and capable than its predecessors because Shirdon has chosen people based on qualifications and expertise,” Mohamed told Sabahi. “They are highly educated, as they hold high degrees and most were expatriates who studied and lived abroad. We hope they can apply what they have learned to lift the country out of its current situation.”
The new cabinet is the first to distribute ministerial posts equally among Somalia’s five main tribal groupings, marking an expansion of the 4.5 quota system that was used to select the current parliament. Under that system, for every seat allotted to the four major clans, a coalition of minority clans received half.
“This is the first government that achieves social justice among the Somali tribes,” said Mohamed Omar Dalha, former minister and member of parliament. It is the first time in 20 years Somalia’s minority clans receive equal representation in governance, he said.
The new cabinet has two ministers from each of the four major clans — Hawiye, Darod, Dir and Rahanweyn — and two from the minority coalition.
Dalha said Shirdon’s cabinet is different in another aspect as well. “First of all, it is the leanest Somali government ever, as it is comprises only ten ministries,” he told Sabahi. “Secondly, the most independent ministry — the Foreign Ministry — is headed by a woman for the first time in the country’s history.”
Political analyst Ahmed Hashi said he hopes the new government will succeed in improving the security situation and bringing back stability to the country.
“Other important issues include holding a national referendum on the new constitution, dealing with refugees who are stranded in nearby countries, moving ahead with political reconciliation with Somaliland and reviving the national economy,” he told Sabahi.
“As for foreign affairs, the most important issues awaiting this new government are winning donor confidence and restoring Somalia’s position as an effective actor in regional and international forums, from which it has been absent for many years,” Hashi said.
Hundreds of Somalis demonstrated Monday in the main streets of Mogadishu to show their support for the cabinet, Somalia’s Shabelle Media Network reported. The demonstrators, including women and children, gathered in the Hamar Weyne district, chanting slogans and holding pictures of the prime minister.
A political victory for women
Maryan Aweys, former minister and current member of parliament, said the appointment of two women to prominent positions represents a huge political victory for Somali women who have struggled to obtain political rights.
Shirdon nominated Fowsiyo Yusuf Haji Aadan as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, and Maryan Qasim Ahmed as minister of development and social affairs.
“This is a positive sign and a nod to the important role played by Somali women in all areas of life as well as rebuilding their nation,” Aweys told Sabahi.
Zahra Abdullahi, a women’s rights activist, said Somali women have regained some of the political rights they had prior to the civil war, adding that she could see women heading other important ministries in the future such as the Ministries of Finance and Interior.
“Although the participation of women in the new government is less than 30%, women have been able to reach the highest positions. This is a positive step forward and they should never, at any time, give up their rights,” she said.
Aadan described her nomination as “historic” for Somalia and a victory for Somali women. During a speech after her nomination, Aadan thanked Shirdon and President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud for the appointment.
“This is a step that shows that the political situation in our country has turned a new page that will lead to success and prosperity,” she said.