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Somalia: MPs elect former Prime Minister as country's new President

09 February 2017

Air traffic over Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, was halted on 8 February as MPs and senators gathered at the airport to elect former Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as the country's new president.

The outgoing president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, congratulated the winner, though many challenges lie ahead for the new leader. President Farmajo will have to try to unite a war-torn country that is still very much divided, while facing an ongoing Islamic insurgency and corruption crisis, as well as the threat of famine.

Last month, the UN warned that Somalia was heading for its second famine in six years, with people already dying from hunger in the north of the country, which is in the grip of an intense drought, induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall.

The election was seen as a milestone on the way to a stable democracy. Because of security concerns and the threat of an attack from the militant Islamist al-Shabaab group, it was held in a heavily guarded hangar at the airport.

But there are concerns that the new leadership will not improve the freedoms of Christians in the nation - which has been ranked as the second-most dangerous country in the world for believers. Former President Mohamud, shortly after his inauguration in 2012, stated that his government would be dedicated to creating a Somalia 'at peace with itself and with its neighbours, a Somalia that values kindness, respect and human rights'. However, since then the position of the Christian minority in the country has not improved, but has rather worsened.

Somalia ranks as number 2 - up five placed from last year - on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List, a list of the 50 countries where Christians face the severest persecution.

The rise in persecution can be ascribed to increased violence from Islamic radicalism: both from extremist groups like al-Shabaab and from tribal leaders. Believers also face persecution from their communities - especially if they have converted from Islam.

Last year, at least 12 Christians were killed when their faith was discovered.

Source: World Watch Monitor; Open Doors

Please pray:

  • Thank God that elections were able to take place without violence on 8 February
  • For newly elected President Farmajo, that he will be able to bring religious freedom and protection to believers
  • That the country's small population of secret Christians would be able to meet together safely, despite the danger, and spread the Word of God.

More News from Somalia:

Find out more about persecution in Somalia.