Somali philanthropist joins presidential race

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Abdi Muse Maahaay the founder and executive director  of Somali American Healthcare Foundation (SOMCare) has joined the presidential race in Somalia. PHOTO TOM MARUKO

By PATRICK MAYOYO

newsdesk@reporter.co.ke

A leading Somali philanthropist Abdi Muse Maahaay has joined the presidential  race setting the stage for a highly competitive election.

Mr Maahaay, the founder and executive director  of Somali American Healthcare Foundation (SOMCare) is among those presidential candidates touted to be frontrunners in a presidential race that has attracted more than 20 candidates.

Mr Maahaay is renowned in Somalia for his humanitarian activities that have seen him assist scores of people with various medical complications through his not for profit, SOMCare that is devoted to bringing lifesaving medical care to the most vulnerable.

While launching his presidential race at Laico Regency hotel in Nairobi Mr Maahaay outlined his vision for a new Somalia based on enhancing peace and stability.

He also promised to offer free education, develop the infrastructure, housing for all areas in Somalia and ensure a robust and thriving economy.

Somalia is set to hold its presidential elections this month amid concerns being raised by the international community over the credibility its electoral process.

The country’s parliamentary elections that were concluded in December were marred with accusations of vote-buying and intimidation, leaving them without credibility.

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Maahaay with some of the patients he has helped treat. PHOTO/COUTESY

The country’s auditor general , Nur Jimale Farah, said that vote-buying was common practice in the country.

In the parliamentary elections, an electorate of just under 14,000 delegates—who have been chosen by 135 clan elders—voted for 275 members of the lower house of parliament.

Regional parliaments are electing the 54-member upper house of parliament (senate), which did not exist before the current elections.

However, on December 27, 2016, the African Union, United Nations and leading Western countries said in a joint statement that they are “gravely concerned” about Somalia’s electoral process.

The United Nation’s Security Council’s upcoming meeting on Somalia is scheduled for 19 January 2017.

Other candidates vying for the presidency include President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is running for re-election.

Others include Mr Ali Mohamed Gedi, who served as prime minister of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government under the administration of President Abdullahi Yusuf from 2004 to 2007, when he resigned.

The presidential elections that revolved around rebuilding the war-torn country by addressing the issue of insecurity and fostering national cohesion and integration among different clans has attracted more than 20 candidates.

However, political observers say at least six of the presidential aspirants are front-runners.

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Maahaay PHOTO/COURTESY

They include Mr Maahaay, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud the current president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

Also in the race is former Prime Minister Mohamed Farmajo. Farmajo was prime minister from October 2010 to  June 2011 when he resigned under pressure from the international community as part of the Kampala Accord .

Also in the presidential, race is Mr Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke the current Prime Minister. Then there is Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aadan the current President of South-West State of Somalia and former speaker of parliament.

Mr Aadan entered politics in 2004 when he was elected speaker of the parliament in Somalia’s transitional government. He held that position until 2007 when he was ousted for holding unauthorized talks with members of the Islamic Courts Union.

They all bring a wealth of experience in leadership and governance after holding high offices.

The elections are viewed as an important step towards full democracy in Somalia, which did not have a stable government for 20 years before the current administration was formed in 2012.

Somalia still faces many challenges, the highest of which is the security situation. Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group, continues to cause terror in the war-torn country.

The terror group has also pledged to disrupt the elections. The country is also dealing with an increased threat from cells of fighters loyal to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS).

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