Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 26 August 2019

Somalia says UN special envoy no longer welcome

Nicholas Haysom accused of meddling in country's internal affairs

UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Haysom was accused of meddling in the country's internal affairs. AP
UN envoy to Somalia Nicholas Haysom was accused of meddling in the country's internal affairs. AP

Somalia’s government has ordered the UN’s envoy to the country to leave, amid questions about the arrest of the Al Shabab extremist group’s former deputy leader who ran for a regional presidency.

A foreign ministry statement on Tuesday accused Nicholas Haysom of breaching the Horn of Africa nation’s sovereignty and declared him persona non grata. He arrived as envoy just a few months ago.

Mr Haysom had questioned the legal basis for the arrest last month of Mukhtar Robow, a former Al Shabab spokesman who defected from the group in 2017, and whether UN-funded regional police in the south-west were involved.

Ethiopian troops, who are part of the African Union force in Somalia, and Somali police arrested Mr Robow days before the regional election in which Mr Robow had been a leading candidate. Deadly protests ensued. Ethiopia has not commented.

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Mr Robow was flown to the capital Mogadishu and held in a prison run by Somalia’s intelligence agency.

A UN spokesman said it would not comment now, and Mr Haysom did not immediately respond. Instead, Mr Haysom and the spokesman for the UN secretary-general on Tuesday issued statements strongly condemning a mortar attack that hit the main UN compound in Mogadishu earlier in the day.

Seven mortars landed inside the compound, injuring two UN staffers and a contractor. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Robow’s arrest is a high-profile test of Somalia’s treatment of defectors from Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab, Africa’s most active extremist group.

Somalia welcomed his defection but not his popular candidacy to lead South-West State, which took some officials by surprise.

In confirming Mr Robow’s arrest, Somalia’s security ministry cited the federal government’s ban on his candidacy, which said he had not completed the defection process. The ministry also alleged that Mr Robow had failed to renounce extremist ideology, and accused him of mobilising armed forces.

A joint statement by the United States, more than a dozen countries, the AU mission and the United Nations expressed concern after the arrest and protests.

Mr Haysom’s letter to the Somali authorities, seen by the Associated Press, questioned the legal framework of Somalia’s defection process and asked how the authorities were able to detain Mr Robow beyond the normal 48 hours.

The letter also questioned the circumstances around civilian deaths during the protests and urged that they be “thoroughly and promptly investigated”.

Updated: January 2, 2019 07:23 PM

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