government’s infighting and paralysis, many Somalis are asking whether a new administration will make a difference.

Some Somalis have turned to the Shabab for services that would ideally be delivered by a functioning state. Many in Mogadishu regularly travel to areas dozens of miles north of the city to get their cases heard at Shabab-operated mobile courts.

One of them is Ali Ahmed, a businessman from a minority tribe whose family home in Mogadishu was occupied for years by members of a powerful tribe. Mr. Ahmed said the Shabab-run court ruled that the occupiers should vacate his house — and they did.

“It’s sad, but no one goes to the government to get justice,” he said. “Even government judges will secretly advise you to go to Al Shabab.”

according to the World Food Program, with nearly 760,000 people displaced.

according to the United Nations. Aid organizations are not able to reach them there, crops are failing and the Shabab demand taxes on livestock, according to interviews with officials and displaced people.

To find food and water, families travel hundreds of miles, sometimes on foot, to cities and towns like Mogadishu and Doolow in the southern Gedo region. Some parents said they buried their children on the way, while others left weak children behind to save others who were hardier.

Dealing with the Shabab will be among the first challenges facing Somalia’s next government, said Afyare Abdi Elmi, executive director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu.

But the new leader, he said, needs also to deliver a new Constitution, reform the economy, deal with climate change, open dialogue with the breakaway region of Somaliland and unite a polarized nation.

“Governance in Somalia became too confrontational over the past few years,” Mr. Elmi said. “It was like pulling teeth. People are now ready for a new dawn.”

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Somalia Moves to Defuse Tensions Both at Home and Abroad

NAIROBI, Kenya — Days after Somalia’s president relented on plans to extend his term in office following street battles and international condemnation, his government announced Thursday that it would restore diplomatic relations with Kenya, ending a monthslong standoff that had injected an additional note of instability into an already-volatile region.

The Somali deputy minister of information said that Qatar had played a role in mediating between the two nations, and that the two sides would hold further talks in the near future on issues including trade and the movement of people.

The announcement, six months after Mogadishu severed relations with Nairobi, accusing it of “blatant interference” in its internal political affairs, came just days after tensions also ratcheted down on the domestic front.

On Saturday, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, facing huge domestic and international pressure, as well as infighting among rival security forces in the streets of the capital, backed down on a bid to extend his term and called for the resumption of election planning.

a statement, “The two governments agree to keep friendly relations between the two countries on the basis of principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, equality, cooperation and peaceful coexistence.”

Kenya’s government said Thursday that it welcomed efforts to normalize relations between the two countries.

The severance of diplomatic relations in December was provoked by a number of tensions, some new and some longstanding.

Most recently, in December, Kenya hosted the president of Somaliland, a breakaway region in the northwest that has yet to gain international recognition. Mogadishu also accused Nairobi of interfering in the electoral process in Jubaland, a region in southern Somalia where Kenyan troops are stationed as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission.

For years, the two countries have also tussled over a sizable area in the Indian Ocean, leading to a high-profile court case at the International Court of Justice that Kenya has boycotted.

a onetime state official in Buffalo, N.Y., who returned to his homeland and began stoking nationalist passions, was accused of trying to hold onto power at whatever cost.

extended his term in office by two years — a move his opponents said he had orchestrated. That set off fierce fighting in the streets of Mogadishu that displaced between 60,000 and 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.

But last Saturday, Mr. Mohamed relented, asking the country’s prime minister to lead preparations for an election as lawmakers nullified his term extension.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mohamed spoke with the leader of Qatar, whose government he has depended on for financial and logistical backing. He also met with Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution. Mr. al-Qahtani, who spent three days in the country, also met with other major political leaders.

met with President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday, said it was “not in the interest of Somalia and Kenya to have a less stable region.”

“We hope this step will bring prosperity to the two neighboring countries, their people, and the region,” he said.

Declan Walsh contributed reporting.

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The Bureaucrat From Buffalo Who Pushed Somalia to the Brink

NAIROBI, Kenya — During his years as an administrator at the Department of Transportation in upstate New York, the Somali refugee turned American citizen took classes in political science, imbibing democratic values he hoped to one day export back to his homeland.

That dream came true for Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed in 2017, when he returned to Somalia and was elected president in a surprise victory that evinced high hopes he might reform — even transform — his dysfunctional, war-weary country.

But those aspirations have crumbled since Mr. Mohamed failed to hold elections when his four-year term ended in February, then moved to extend his rule by two years — a step many Somalis viewed as a naked power grab.

A furious political dispute turned violent on Sunday when a series of gunfights broke out between rival military factions in the capital, Mogadishu, evoking fears that Somalia, after years of modest yet gradual progress, could descend into the kind of clan-based bloodshed that ripped it apart in the 1990s.

young Somalis determined to find a better future and progress in the fight against insurgents with Al Shabab, one of the world’s best organized and funded Al Qaeda affiliates.

Mr. Mohamed did not respond to a request for an interview or to questions sent to his aides.

Popularly known as “Farmaajo” — a derivation of the Italian word for cheese and purportedly his father’s favorite food — Mr. Mohamed was once the bearer of many Somalis’ hopes.

Mr. Mohamed was widely seen as less corrupt, more reform-oriented and less manipulated by foreign interests than the other 24 candidates.

“This is the beginning of unity for the Somali nation,” Mr. Mohamed told supporters shortly after winning the election.

Mr. Mohamed came to the United States in 1985 as a junior diplomat at the Somali Embassy and, as his country tumbled into conflict, decided to stay. A family friend said he first applied for political asylum in Canada, where his mother and siblings lived, and later obtained a Canadian passport.

But in the early 1990s, Mr. Mohamed, newly married, moved back to the United States where his family eventually settled in Grand Island, next to Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

back at his desk at the Department of Transportation in Buffalo, where he enforced nondiscrimination and affirmative action policies.

The great hopes many Somalis invested in Mr. Mohamed in 2017, when he won the presidency against all expectations, stemmed partly from his public image as a calm and bespectacled, if somewhat uncharismatic, technocrat. But disappointment soon set in.

human rights groups, United Nations and Western officials.

Mr. Yasin, a former journalist with Al Jazeera, had become a conduit for unofficial Qatari funds that were used to help get Mr. Mohamed elected, and which he used to solidify his political base while in power, the officials said — part of a wider proxy battle for influence between rival oil-wealthy Persian Gulf states in the strategically located country.

Some in Mr. Mohamed’s inner circle, including Colonel Sheikh, grew disillusioned and quit. “I said to myself: ‘These people are bad news,’” he said.

In 2019, Mr. Mohamed gave up his American citizenship. He didn’t explain the decision, but officials familiar with the matter pointed to one possible factor.

At the time Mr. Mohamed surrendered his passport, his finances had come under investigation by the Internal Revenue Service in the United States, said three Western officials familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter about a foreign head of state.

cutting ties with neighboring Kenya in December as part of a long-running diplomatic dispute.

allying with the autocratic president of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, whose military has trained thousands of Somali troops, Western and Somali officials say.

“It comes as cash and it’s uncounted,” Abdirizak Mohamed, a former interior minister and now opposition lawmaker, said of the Qatari funds. “It’s an open secret.”

Now Mr. Mohamed is confined to Villa Somalia, the presidential compound in central Mogadishu, as military units loyal to his most powerful opponents — a coalition of presidential candidates and the leaders of two of Somalia’s five regional states — camp on a major junction a few hundred yards away.

Worried residents say they don’t know whether the president’s latest concession will offer a genuine opportunity for new talks, or a pause before rival fighters open fire again.

“I feel a lot of fear,” said Zahra Qorane Omar, a community organizer, by phone from Mogadishu. “We’ve gone through enough suffering. The bullet is not what this city or its people deserve.”

Hussein Mohamed contributed reporting from Mogadishu, Somalia.

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Gunfire Erupts in Mogadishu as Somalia’s Political Feud Turns Violent

NAIROBI, Kenya — Gunfire erupted across the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday as security forces loyal to the president clashed with units that appeared to have sided with his rivals, stoking fears that Somalia’s simmering political crisis is spilling over into violence.

The fighting, some of the worst in the Somali capital for years, followed months of tense talks between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and opponents who accuse him of making an unconstitutional power grab.

The talks collapsed after Mr. Mohamed failed to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by February, as scheduled, and then two months later signed a law extending his term in office by two years. His actions have drawn criticism from the United States and other Western allies.

The moves effectively ended United Nations-mediated negotiations backed by the United States and added fuel to an already combustible political situation.

appealed on Twitter for “maximum restraint” on all sides. “Violence is unacceptable,” he said. “Those responsible will be held accountable.”

The fighting also raised the possibility of dangerous fissures along clan lines inside the Somali military, and the worry that powerful foreign-trained units, including an elite American-funded commando squad, could get sucked in.

posted online by Somali reporters and news outlets Sunday night depicted long bursts of gunfire around Kilometer 4, a major junction in the city. Some of fighting occurred near Villa Somalia, as the presidential palace is known.

Foreigners living in the highly protected zone around Mogadishu’s international airport said they had retreated into bunkers to avoid being hit by stray gunfire.

The main clashes occurred outside the homes of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former president of Somalia, and Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the leader of a major opposition party. In statements, both men laid blame for the attacks on President Mohamed, who is popularly known by the nickname “Formaajo.”

At a hastily convened news conference, Hassan Hundubey Jimale, Somalia’s minister of internal security, denied that the government had attacked the former president’s home and blamed unspecified foreign countries for the clashes.

Mr. Jimale gave no details about how many people had been killed or injured.

Critics said Mr. Mohamed was making a high-stakes bid to stay in power.

“It seems Formaajo has decided his final suicidal attack by attacking every opposition figure in town,” said Hussein Sheikh Ali, a former national security adviser who once worked under Mr. Mohamed.

silenced critics, expelled the top U.N. official and, last year, dragged its feet over scheduled elections.

The opposition has refused to recognize Mr. Mohamed’s authority since his four-year term expired on Feb. 8 without planned presidential and parliamentary elections taking place.

Talks between the two sides over the terms of any elections have been deadlocked since the fall. Opponents accused Mr. Mohamed and his powerful spy chief, Fahad Yasin, of attempting to rig the system by stuffing regional electoral boards with their supporters.

Mr. Mohamed claimed his enemies were trying to shy away from an election, and now says he needs two years to bring forward plans for universal suffrage in Somalia. Under the current system, the president is chosen through an indirect, clan-based vote.

Mr. Mohamed’s move to extend his term by two years on April 14, which some analysts called a “constitutional coup,” met with fierce criticism from the United States and other Western allies.

In Mogadishu, the move caused some opposition leaders to retreat into their clan strongholds.

Among those embroiled in the fighting on Sunday was Sadek John, a former police chief of Mogadishu who was dismissed in mid-April after he opposed Mr. Mohamed, according to a Somali police official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya and Hussein Mohamed from Mogadishu, Somalia.

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Somalia’s President Extends Term by Two Years, Drawing Condemnation

NAIROBI, Kenya — In a highly contentious move, Somalia’s president has extended his own term in office by two years, drawing condemnation from the United States and other allies who viewed the move as a naked power grab and feared it could upend faltering efforts to establish a functioning state and defeat the insurgency by the extremist group Al Shabab.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a one-time American citizen popularly known as Farmaajo, announced that he signed the law extending his mandate early Wednesday, two days after it was approved by a majority of Somalia’s Parliament amid accusations that the president’s office had engineered the vote.

The move represented a worst-case scenario for United Nations and Western officials, who had been shuttling for months between Mr. Mohamed and Somali regional leaders locked in a bitter dispute over when and how to hold parliamentary and presidential elections that were scheduled to take place by early February.

The United States, which has given billions of dollars in aid to Somalia and conducted numerous airstrikes and military raids against Al Shabab, had privately threatened Mr. Mohamed and his top officials with sanctions and visa restrictions if he disregarded the election time table.

according to Somali investigators, was influenced by at least $20 million in bribes.

But critics say that Mr. Mohamed is now using the one-person, one-vote goal as an excuse to delay elections that he risks losing, and that he is taking his cues from Mr. Afwerki.

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