Friday January 4, 2019
BY JENNIFER PELTZ
In this Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, file photo, Nicholas Haysom, then the top UN envoy in Afghanistan, speaks during a press conference in Kabul. Somalia's government on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019 ordered Nicholas Haysom, the United Nations envoy to Somalia, to leave amid questions over the arrest of the al-Shabab extremist group's former deputy leader Mukhtar Robow who had run for a regional presidency. MASSOUD HOSSAINI, FILE AP PHOTO
A United Nations envoy who was recently ordered to leave Somalia warned Thursday about its “political turbulence,” while its U.N. ambassador admonished the world body to stay out of his country’s internal affairs.
Both addressed the Security Council at a regularly scheduled discussion that took on new overtones after Somalia announced Tuesday it was expelling Nicholas Haysom. Somalia’s government said Haysom overstepped diplomatic bounds by questioning the arrest of an extremist group defector-turned-political candidate.
The U.N. has said little in public about the flap. Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Thursday that the world body was seeking “further clarification” on the matter, but that Haysom continues to have the support of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who appointed Haysom in September as special representative for Somalia.
Haysom himself didn’t directly address his apparent ouster. But while commending Somalia’s progress on various political, economic and security initiatives, he said “continuing political turbulence could throw it off-course.” And he pointed out the violent fallout from Mukhtar Robow’s arrest.
The deadly protests that followed do “not bode well” for upcoming elections, Haysom said.
“Politics is complex in any nation,” he noted, but in a country trying to enshrine a stable system after decades of strife, “there is a risk that complexity shifts to conflict.”
Ousted UN envoy: Somalia's politics could beget conflict
The arrest also could affect the likelihood that other extremist group defectors will consider abandoning violence to pursue political change, Haysom suggested.
Somali Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman, meanwhile, said the Horn of Africa nation appreciates the U.N.’s help but “distinguishes between the institutions that we are part of and individuals’ conduct that has a detrimental effect on our fragile nation.”
Somalia has said Robow — who was arrested days before a December election in which he was a leading candidate for a regional presidency — couldn’t run because he hadn’t completed a defection process. A former deputy leader of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, one of Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist groups, he defected in 2017 and surrendered to the government, which welcomed his defection.
But when he was arrested, Somalia’s security ministry alleged that Robow failed to renounce extremist ideology and accused him of mobilizing armed forces.
Osman didn’t mention Robow specifically on Thursday, but the ambassador said the potential election of “any individual with violent extremism history would represent a regressive step.”
“While we strive to re-establish the rule of law and end a culture of impunity, we reject the criticism and attempt to rebrand the new terrorism as an ice-cream salesperson without redeeming themselves,” Osman said.
He added that the U.N. and its representatives have “an obligation to respect their mandate and to not interfere in our internal affairs.”
Haysom, in a letter to Somali authorities, questioned the legal framework of Somalia’s defection process and asked how Somali authorities were able to detain Robow beyond the normal 48 hours. Robow has been held in a prison since his Dec. 13 arrest.
Haysom’s letter also questioned the circumstances surrounding civilian deaths during the protests and urged investigation.
The Security Council went on to discuss Somalia in a closed session later Thursday but didn’t issue a statement.
After 30 years of civil war, extremist attacks and famine, Somalia established a functioning transitional government in 2012 and has since been working to rebuild.