MOGADISHU  - Somalia’s newly appointed legislature will elect the country’s next president Monday, in a fresh bid to end two decades of unstable central government in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation. The election of the new president would complete a complex process set in motion through a UN-backed agreement aimed at ending eight years of rule by Somalia’s graft-riddled, Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and, it is hoped, would bring peace.

Outgoing president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in power since 2009, is one of the favourites for the top job, though he cuts a controversial figure with Western observers. A UN report in July said that under his presidency, “systematic embezzlement, pure and simple misapproriation of funds and theft, of public money have become government systems.” Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and the outgoing parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan are also contenders for the post. Somalia has lacked an effective central government since president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, unleashing cycles of bloody conflict that have defied countless peace initiatives. Ruthless warlords and militia groups including Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents have controlled mini-fiefdoms that the African Union and other troops have only recently started to reconquer.