Mammoth task ahead for new Somalia president

Somalia’s new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has his work cut out for him.

Newly elected Somali president Hasan Sheikh Mahmud arrives at the Jazeera hotel in Mogadishu on September 12, 2012 in Mogadsihu. Somalia's president survived an assassination bid, just two days into his new job, when bomb blasts claimed by Islamist rebels rocked the Mogadishu hotel where he was meeting Kenya's foreign minister. Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack in which two blasts rocked the hotel where the new president was staying. Picture: AFP.

MOGADISHU - Hassan Sheikh Mohamud's election as president of Somalia was heralded as the start of a new era for the troubled Horn of Africa state, which was mired in conflict for over two decades.

Residents of Mogadishu said Mohamud has his work cut out for him.

The president got an early taste of the tough road ahead when he survived an attempted assassination on 12 September.

Mohamud and other officials at the city's Jazeera Hotel, including Kenyan Foreign Minister Samuel Ongeri, were unharmed by the suspected suicide attack, which witnesses said killed the bomber and at least one security guard.

Militant Islamist group Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the blast.

"Now we have an educated speaker as well as an educated president, and I hope there will also be a qualified prime minister," Abdulahi Hassan Mohamed, a 42-year-old doctor, told IRIN. "The president [has done] many good services for the people as a normal citizen - he should build on that."

Somali MPs chose Mohamud - who represents the Peace and Development Party - over the incumbent, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in a runoff on 10 September. An academic and long-term civil society activist, Mohamud has been described as a moderate who could unite Somalia's deeply divided, largely clan-based, political groups.

The election process was marred by allegations of vote-buying and was criticized for not being sufficiently democratic, but the results have been widely accepted. Neighbouring Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the European Union and the United States, have congratulated the new president.

The African Union called on Somali stakeholders to "further the peace and reconciliation process", while UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon urged "Somali and international actors alike to pledge their continued support".

A spokesperson for the Al-Shabab, which still holds parts of south-central Somalia, said the group rejected the election and vowed to continue its war against the government.