Somalia leader urges world to ‘save our people’ from looming famine

Somalia’s newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has used his inauguration speech to appeal for international help to stave off a famine that threatens his drought-stricken country.

“There are fears that starvation may strike in some areas,” Mohamud said on Thursday, urging “the diaspora and the world to play a role in saving our people who were affected by the drought”.

“These conditions were caused by accumulated problems including climate change, destruction of our economic resources and the weakness of our government institutions. Therefore, my government will establish an agency for environmental matters,” he said.

Aid agencies have warned of an approaching famine as cases of severe malnutrition among children shoot up in the troubled Horn of Africa nation, which is battling a record drought following four failed rainy seasons.

Multiple appeals for aid have gone largely unnoticed so far, with nearly half the country’s population going hungry and more than 200,000 people on the brink of starvation, the United Nations said on Monday.

The drought crisis has also hit Somalia’s neighbours, Ethiopia and Kenya, whose presidents were among the foreign leaders attending Thursday’s ceremony, held under heavy security in the Mogadishu airport complex.

In addition to tackling the looming famine, Mohamud – who previously served as president between 2012 and 2017 – faces a grinding militant insurgency in parts of the country, making humanitarian access a challenge.

In a sign of the lingering threat, militants fired several rounds of mortar shells in neighbourhoods near the airport in an overnight attack.

Mohamud vows to foster stability

A former academic and peace activist, Mohamud’s first term was dogged by high-profile corruption scandals and political turmoil, with two of his three prime ministerial appointees forced out, and two central bank governors resigning.

The first Somali leader to win a second term, he has promised to transform Somalia into “a peaceful country that is at peace with the world” and repair damage inflicted by months of political infighting, both at the executive level and between states and the central government.

He vowed on Thursday to foster “political stability through consultation, mutual endorsement, and unity among … the federal government and federal member states,” striking a contrasting tone to his confrontational predecessor Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo.

Somalia’s international partners have welcomed the election of Mohamud, with many hoping it will draw a line under a long-running political crisis that has distracted the government from tackling the Al Shabab insurgency and the devastating drought.

The United Nations mission in Somalia issued a statement on Twitter saying it “congratulates President HassanSMohamud on his inauguration today, and looks forward to working with his administration in support of achieving national priorities”.

Meanwhile, calls for international aid have raised less than 20 percent of the money needed to avert a repeat of the 2011 famine in Somalia that killed 260,000 people – half of them children under the age of six.



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