MOGADISHU, Somalia — In a fortified tent guarded by peacekeeping forces, hundreds of lawmakers elected a new president in Somalia on Sunday, capping a violent election season that threatened to push the Horn of Africa nation toward a breakdown.
The selection of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former president, in Mogadishu ended a bitter election period marred by corruption, a president’s attempt to cling to power and heavy fighting in the streets. Mr. Mohamud defeated three dozen candidates after three rounds of voting, including President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who drew condemnation after extending his term last year.
The vote, which had been delayed for nearly two years, came amid soaring inflation and a deadly drought that has left almost 40 percent of the country hungry. The streets in Mogadishu, the capital, were closed on Sunday, and the police announced a curfew through Monday morning.
a former U.S. citizen and bureaucrat,who led the country for five years. Mr. Mohamed has been accused of cracking down on the opposition and on journalists, fomenting a rift with neighboring Kenya and undercutting the power-sharing model that buttressed the country’s federal system.
The Shabab, who are linked to Al Qaeda, have exploited the political instability and the bitter divisions between security forces to expand and gain strength, experts said. After more than 16 years, the group now has wide powers: extorting taxes, judging court cases, forcing minors into its ranks and carrying out suicide bombings.
signed a law extending his tenure by two years, fighting broke out in the capital’s streets, forcing him to change course.
Observers said the election of lawmakers last year was rife with corruption.
February and March on Somali officials and others accused of undermining the parliamentary elections, which eventually concluded in late April.
Because of the indirect nature of the presidential vote, candidates did not campaign in the streets. Instead, they met with lawmakers and clan elders in luxury hotels and compounds guarded by soldiers and blast walls. Some aspirants put up election billboards, promising good governance, justice and peace.
But few in this seaside city believe politicians will make good on their pledges.
“Everyone wears a suit, carries a briefcase and promises to be as sweet as honey,” said Jamila Adan, a political science student at City University. “But we don’t believe them.”
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.”
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.