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Somalia

After more than 20 years and 17 attempts at forming a internationally recognized central government, the Somali parliament held its inaugural session on Aug. 20, 2012. Rife with disorganization, corruption, and concerns for the safety of the participants, the swearing in took place at the airport in Mogadishu and was watched over by African Union troops. This landmark occasion was followed by the election of former labour minister Mohamed Osman Jawa as speaker on Aug. 28.

In September, parliament elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, an advocate for civil rights, as president. He prevailed over incumbent Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in the second round of voting. Many observers expressed hope and optimism that Hassan, who is considered above corruption, would set the country on a path torward stability. Just two days after he became president, he survived an assassination attempt by a member of the militant group Shabab.

Shabab was dealt a severe blow in Sept. 2012 when several hundred Kenyan troops, with the help of Somalis, took over Somalia"s port city of Kismayu in an amphibious assault. The incursion followed several weeks of air and naval assaults by Kenya on key Shabab positions in Kismayu. The city was the last Shabab stronghold, and the militant group used the port to bring in weapons and raise money by charging hefty import fees. Outmatched militarily, the Shabab withdrew from Kismayu, but said they would take their fight underground, saying Kismayu will "be transformed from a peaceful city governed by Islamic Shariah into a battle zone."

In Oct. 2012, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appointed Abdi Farah Shirdon, a businessman who had once worked as an economist for the Somali government, as prime minister. Parliament approved the appointment 215–0. In January 2013, the U.S. formally recognized the Somali government for the first time since 1991.

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