Somalia is to hold its presidential election on Wednesday after numerous delays, with ongoing security concerns and warnings of famine topping the agenda for the new administration. President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is seeking re-election against 22 other candidates.
The troubled Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government in three decades, had been promised a one-person, one-vote election in 2016.
However political infighting and insecurity, mainly due to Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab militants who control swathes of countryside and strike at will in Mogadishu, saw the plan ditched for a limited vote running months behind schedule.
Somalia's Special Forces beefed up the security of presidential election venue on Wednesday. #Somalia pic.twitter.com/kKYucxlbA1 — Somalia Live Update (@HassanIstiila) February 7, 2017
One of them is the current president, a 61-year-old former academic and civil society activist from the Hawiye clan. Also in the running is ex-president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a fellow Hawiye and 52-year-old former leader of the Islamic Courts Union which pacified Somalia before being driven out by US-backed Ethiopian troops.
The leading Darod candidates are Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Shamarke, 56, and a former premier Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed 'Farmajo', 55. Both hold dual nationalities having lived for years in Canada and the US respectively.
The overthrow of president Siad Barre's military regime in 1991 ushered in decades of anarchy and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines. The clan rivalries and lawlessness provided fertile ground for the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab to take hold and seize territory, frustrating efforts to set up a central administration.
Al-Shabaab has been in decline since 2011 but still launches regular, deadly attacks against government, military and civilian targets in the capital Mogadishu and elsewhere.
Security and overcoming Somalia's adversarial and divisive politics will top the agenda for whoever wins the vote as will dealing with a growing humanitarian crisis.
The UN warned last week of "possible famine" in Somalia as a severe drought has pushed nearly 3 million people to the edge of starvation.
After two failed rain seasons, aid workers fear a repeat of a 2010-11 drought which left more than 250,000 dead.
"The levels of suffering in the country, triggered by protracted conflict, seasonal shocks and disease outbreaks, are typically hard to bear, but the impact of this drought represents a threat of a different scale and magnitude," the UN's office for humanitarian affairs said in a statement last week.