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Profile: Somalia's 'cheese' President, Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed 'Farmajo'

Profile: Somalia's 'cheese' President, Mohammed Abdullahi Mohammed 'Farmajo'


His name combines that of the Holy Prophet of Islam (Mohammed) on two sides and Mohammed’s father’s name in between. Then his more popular Italian nickname follows – a nickname he is known for and for which he bears on his official twitter handle – ‘Farmajo’.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ was on February 8 elected the 9th President of Somalia. An election held in an airport hangar due to increasing insecurity largely because of the activities of al-Shabaab insurgents.

There was a virtual lockdown in the capital Mogadishu as lawmakers in the country’s Upper and Lower legislative houses met to choose the Chief Executive of the Horn of Africa’s most insecure and embattled nation.

People call him ‘Farmaajo,’ short for ‘formaggio’ which is Italian for cheese.

Security aside, a battered economy and drought are not helping matters and yet Farmajo and over 20 others believed it was worth pitching to inherit a nation in crisis, with the view to turn things around for the better.

In the end, it came down to four candidates and then to two – Farmajo and the then incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who ‘saved the day’ by conceding to President Farmajo – all candidates committing to join hands to overcome the challenges.

Who is the man Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo?

  • Born in the Somali capital Mogadishu in 1962. The President is married with four children
  • He holds dual citizenship Somali and American. He moved to the US in 1985, he got his US citizenship after 1991.
  • He worked as a secretary in the Somali embassy in Washington DC between 1985 and 1988.
  • He put himself through school after arrival in the US, 8 years later (1993) he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Buffalo.
  • Then 6 years later (2009) he bagged a master’s degree in American studies. His thesis was titled, ‘U.S. Strategic Interest in Somalia: From the Cold War Era to the War on Terror.’
  • Whiles in the US, he worked for the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority as a commissioner. In 2000 he served as minority business coordinator with the county’s equal employment opportunity division.

Why and how the Italian ‘cheesy’ nickname – ‘Farmajo’

His nickname ‘Farmajo,’ was given him as a result of his love for cheese. History has it that he loved cheese as a young boy growing up in the former Italian colony

‘People call him ‘Farmaajo,’ short for ‘formaggio’ which is Italian for cheese,’ his 24-year-old daughter Intisar Mohamed explained to The Buffalo News. And his official twitter account is ‘cheesed up.’

The ‘disastrous’ 8-months as Prime Minister

  • This was his second stint at the executive arm of government having served as Prime Minister in 2011
  • He resigned as PM after 8-months following a disagreement with his boss, at the time President Sheikh Sharif Hassan.
  • Incidentally, he beat his former boss and the then-incumbent Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to win the presidency
  • During his time as PM he denounced corruption – which was pronounced in the last polls, he cut down his cabinet and started paying soldiers.
  • Unfortunately, it was during his brief tenure that al-Shabaab captured the capital, Mogadishu.
  • After his resignation, he returned to his base on Grand Island in the US.

The ‘People’s man’

He is a known human rights campaigner lauded for his simplicity and largely seen a ‘man of the people’

There were celebrations all over Somalia after he was announced winner of the polls, even Somalis in Kenya will not be left out.

He is a believer that the first point of call for solutions to Somali problems should be Somalis and has said his foreign policy will be based on respect and cooperation.

Somalia is about the size of Texas – Farmajo will be leading a nation of about 10 to 12 million. Official estimates indicate that some 8.5 million Somalis have fled due to insecurity. Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti housing 5 million, 3 million and half a million Somali refugees respectively.

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