The 8 February 2017 presidential election in Somalia afforded Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Farmajo) an exceptionally strong mandate to fight corruption and governmental dysfunction, and to forge elusive state viability. But it is essential for him to ensure that Somali national forces are capable of maintaining Somalia’s security against the still-formidable jihadist group al-Shabaab before the UN-mandated African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) departs.

Somalia, the perennial epitome of a failed state, has been struggling in vain for over 25 years to establish a stable and effective national government. Since strongman president Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown in the 1991 civil war, a series of unstable and insulated – if mostly internationally recognised – transitional governments have nominally run the country. While it has inched towards a more stable federalism in recent years, clan and sub-clan networks remain politically entrenched and often neutralise formal governmental institutions. Some have established declared but unrecognised states in parts of Somalia. Others having been infiltrated and co-opted to varying degrees by the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab.

Since 2007, the UN-mandated African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), consisting of 21,564 mainly Ugandan, Burundian, Ethiopian, Djiboutian and Kenyan troops, has contained al-Shabaab by limiting the amount of territory it holds but has not defeated the group. AMISOM has also supplied and delivered humanitarian aid, and trained Somali security forces. Its objective is to transfer physical control of Somali territory to Somali national forces. Although a salutary presidential election occurred on 8 February 2017, and AMISOM's departure is tentatively supposed to commence in late 2018, the new president with the help of AMISOM itself and the United States, will have to significantly advance the training and capabilities of Somali national forces before they are capable of maintaining Somalia's security without AMISOM.

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