updated 2:57 PM CEST, Sep 21, 2023

Somalia's president reveals he's renounced his American citizenship

Somalia president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo) has officially announced that he voluntarily renounced his U.S. citizenship, acquired during time he'd spent in the country some years back when he was a student and briefly was employed there.

The renunciation is likely to be seen by many of those in the expatriate American community who are feeling victimized by the heavy and expensive burden their U.S. citizenship places on them as further evidence of the difficulty that even those in high places have in keeping their U.S. passports – or wanting to, if they can afford to give them up.

In a statement last Thursday, President Farmajo's office said the renunciation had come in the wake of his election as president, which saw him take office in February of 2017. 

In accordance with the growing trend of world leaders to make announcements over social media, Farmajo's office tweeted, via its @TheVillaSomalia handle, on Thursday: "This is to officially announce that the President of The Federal Republic of Somalia, H.E @M_Farmaajo, has relinquished his US citizenship. This follows the completion of the required legal and immigration processes that had been initiated after the president’s election." 

The Villa Somalia is the name of the president's residence. 

A second tweet added: "The Provisional Constitution of the Federal Republic of Somalia allows for dual citizenship. The President, however, voluntarily filed for the renunciation." 

The president himself tweeted, also on Thursday: "I am proud to serve my people and always believe in their potential to rebuild this nation. I am neither discouraged by our past, nor daunted by the enormity of the task ahead. I will continue serving my people honestly with the firm belief that real power rests with the people."

Some media organizations called attention to the timing of the revelation of the president's renunciation and certain recent, controversial remarks by President Trump, concerning four U.S. congresswomen of ethnic background, one of whom – Ilhan Omar – had actually been born in Somalia. In his remarks, Trump suggested that the four first-year Democrats go "back" to the countries they were from, even though three of the four had been born in the U.S., and Omar had come to the U.S. as a child, after her family had fled war-ravaged Somalia and spent time in a refugee camp.   

Meanwhile, the Associated Press noted in its story that in Somalia, dual citizenships held by various officials in the country has been cited by some as an indication that the individuals in question lacked loyalty to Somalia. 

Farmajo is expected to run for re-election in 2021, the AP added.  

It wasn't immediately known when President Farmajo's name appeared – as the names of all citizenship renunciations are – on the U.S. Government's Federal Register, under the section known as "Quarterly Publication of Individuals Who Have Chosen to Expatriate as Required by Section 6039G."

Nickname from the Italian word for cheese

According to a biography published on the news website AfricaNews.com in 2017, after he took office as Somalia's president,  the ‘Farmajo’ part of his name is a nickname that is taken from the Italian word "formaggio," which means "cheese," which other sources have noted his father had acquired a taste for when Somalia was an Italian colony. The AfricaNews.com biography notes that he was born in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in 1962, and acquired his U.S. citizenship in 1991, after having moved to the U.S. in 1985.

There he worked in the Somali embassy in Washington, D.C. between 1985 and 1988, and acquired an undergraduate degree from the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, followed later by a master's degree in American studies. 

Farmajo is the latest in a long line of well-known people to have renounced their citizenships over the years. Others have included Boris Johnson, who last week took over from Theresa May as Britain's prime minister; Eduardo Saverin, the Brazilian-born naturalized American who was one of the founders of Facebook; pop singer Tina Turner; actor Yul Brynner; authors Henry James and T. S. Eliot; film director John Huston; emerging market fund manager Mark Mobius; and Jazz Age performer Josephine Baker.

The late socialite Christina Onassis, investor Sir John Marks Templeton, and Jordan's Queen Noor (the former Lisa Najeeb Halaby of Washington, D.C.) also renounced. 

As reported here in November, some UK tabloids have suggested that Meghan Markle, the American actress who married Prince Harry last May, will eventually renounce her U.S. citizenship, citing  the complex financial reporting issues her continued American citizenship would present the Royal Family's tax preparers.

Interest in celebrity renunciants has increased as the number of those renouncing American citizenship has soared in recent years, as the American tax avoidance bill known as FATCA has made remaining an American citizen costly and burdensome for those who live outside of the U.S. and have no plans to return.

'War and conflict-
rocked country' 

Somalia is located on the "horn" of Africa, just west of Ethiopia (see map, above), and has been rocked by war and conflict in recent years. Some observers have described it as making progress in the direction of stability, although the deaths of more than 500 people in two bomb attacks in Mogadishu in October 2017 are a reminder of how fragile any peace currently seen to be in place may actually be. 

During President Farmajo's time in office the U.S. has increased airstrikes against the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group and re-established a diplomatic presence in the country.