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In Somalia, Presidential Election Underscores Government Corruption


Somalia, a place without much of a functioning government, has elected a new president. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports that after a process full of corruption and security issues, the country delivered a surprising result.

MCEVERS: Far away from the elections venue in Somalia, I meet Fadumo Dayib in Nairobi. Dayib, at one point, was seen as a shining example of everything that was going right with Somalia. She was educated at Harvard, and she was a woman running for president in Somalia. And then she learned that the members of parliament who were to elect the president were selling their votes. So she quit.

FADUMO DAYIB: I wasn't going to pay my way into office and become that very repugnant politician that I'm fighting against.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: As she looked at a live stream of the proceedings in Mogadishu, she just shook her head. If the current president won re-election, she says, it would be a huge victory for corruption. But if anyone else did, especially the popular favorite Mohamed Farmajo, it would show her that...

DAYIB: After all these years, we have finally come to understand how valuable our country is and our people are.

PERALTA: Mohamed Mubarak, an anti-corruption activist, says the whole central government was founded on corruption. Politicians running for parliament openly bought votes, he says. And when that didn't work, they resorted to violence.

MOHAMED MUBARAK: One voter was killed in line, and his body was not allowed to be taken away. And voting finished, and somebody won.

PERALTA: That somebody is now a member of parliament. Mubarak says his anti-corruption group found the current president, Hassan Sheikh Muhamud, raided government coffers, sold government land and used the money to buy votes for tens of thousands of dollars each. So Mubarak and other activists expected parliament to choose the most corrupt candidate.

Because of the threats of attack from Islamist group al-shabaab, the Somali MPs gathered at the fortified Mogadishu airport. They were called one by one to cast their vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: The president was elected by parliament because even the international community said Somalia wasn't ready for a national popular vote. The first round went to the current president. And then after the second round, a huge surprise.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken).


PERALTA: President Mohamud conceded, making Mohamed Farmajo Somalia's new president. Mubarak, the anti-corruption activist, says even though all the candidates bought votes, Farmajo's victory gives him hope that maybe, just maybe, the presidency in Somalia does not go to the highest bidder. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.