Somalia’s UN-backed government has expelled the top United Nations envoy to the war-ravaged country, accusing him of meddling in its internal affairs after he challenged recent actions of UN-paid Somali police forces.
In a late Tuesday statement, the East African nation’s Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that the UN secretary-general’s special representative to Somalia, Nicholas Haysom, “is not required and cannot work in this country,” in effect declaring him persona non grata.
“The decision comes after he openly breached the appropriate conduct of the UN office in Somalia,” it said.
The move came after Haysom expressed concerns in a December 30 letter to the interior security minister over “the alleged involvement of UN-supported Somali security forces in the arrest of Mukhtar Robow on December 13, the deaths of 15 civilians… on December 13, 14, and 15… and the arrest of approximately 300 people involved in the demonstrations on December 13, 14, and 15.”
Robow, according to press reports, is a former member of the notorious al-Shabaab militant group who publicly renounced violence and recognized federal authority in 2017. The government, however, blocked his bid to become a regional leader in the country in an election last month.
Haysom had asked the minister in the letter to explain the legal basis for Robow’s detention, also questioning the ministry’s probe into the circumstances of the killings during protests in the southern city of Baidoa following Robow’s arrest.
The UN envoy also reminded the top security official that the world body understood that most of those arrested by Somali forces had been children.
Somalia’s Internal Security Ministry said Robow had been arrested on the suspicion that he had brought militants and arms back to Baidoa, the capital of the South West region, where he is running for president.
His detention triggered clashes between pro-Robow militiamen and Somali government forces. Ethiopian security forces, who are part of an African Union peacekeeping contingent in Somalia, were also involved in the violence.
The letter by the UN representative also contained an annexed joint letter from the European Union, Germany, and Britain announcing the suspension of their support to the police in South West State due to their conduct during last month’s election.
Haysom further detailed the UN financial support for the Somali police force as well as the South West regional police, which includes the payment of stipends to the police.
The UN mission in the highly-impoverished African country did not immediately react to the recent development.
The UN remains a major backer of Somalia’s government, which also enjoys the support of Western countries.
Somalia is still plagued by the aftereffects of a civil war in 1991, when warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other.