January 04, 2019
Then the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, Nicholas Haysom, speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Feb. 18, 2015.
By Margaret Besheer
UNITED NATIONS – Somalia’s U.N. envoy Thursday urged the United Nations not to interfere in his country’s internal affairs, two days after the federal government expelled the U.N.’s top official there.
“Our appeal to the Security Council, that the U.N. and its representatives have a duty — even an obligation — to respect their mandate and not interfere in our internal affairs and let the Somalis control their own destiny,” Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman told a meeting of the council.
The Somali federal government declared U.N. envoy Nicholas Haysom “persona non grata” on Jan. 1, ordering him to leave the country just four months after he took up his post as the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative.
Council diplomats said U.N. chief António Guterres was working behind the scenes to try to return Haysom to his post.
The government is upset over Haysom’s raising of the case of Mukhtar Robow, a former leader of militant group al-Shabab who sought to run for the presidency of South West State.
In this Oct. 10, 2018, photo, Mukhtar Robow, who was once deputy leader of Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab, speaks at a press conference about his candidacy for a regional presidency, in Baidoa, Somalia.
The national electoral commission banned Robow from running, while the South West State electoral body said he could be a candidate. Robow was arrested last month and violent protests ensued both for and against the decision.
Haysom raised Robow’s detention with the Mogadishu authorities.
“The member states here will agree, the proscribed individuals from Shabab or other terrorist organizations sanctioned by this very institution cannot assume leadership positions without going through a stringent, established rehabilitation program,” Osman said. Osman rejected what he said was an attempt to “rebrand” a terrorist as an “ice cream salesperson.”
Haysom attends meeting
U.N. envoy Haysom was present at the meeting in New York.
Haysom did not mention his expulsion during his remarks to the council, but he did allude to the Robow case, albeit without referencing him by name.
“Allegations of interference by the federal government and the violence which erupted following the arrest of one of the candidates, a former al-Shabab deputy leader, marred the process and does not bode well for upcoming electoral processes in other regions or for the 2020 national elections,” Haysom said.
He expressed concern that this could deter other potential al-Shabab defectors from moving away from violence and toward politics to resolve their grievances.
Waiting for explanation
The U.N. secretary-general’s spokesperson said U.N. officials had not received any formal notification from the Somali federal government regarding Haysom’s expulsion.
“At this stage, we continue to seek further clarification,” Farhan Haq told reporters.
Haq said Haysom continued to have the full support and confidence of Guterres and “we imagine he will continue to go about his work.”
Haysom, a South African lawyer, is an experienced U.N. diplomat. He was previously the special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan and was head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan, in addition to other high-level posts in the organization.