Somalia orders top UN official to leave

The foreign affairs ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday that Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, “is not required and cannot work in this country.” (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 January 2019
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Somalia orders top UN official to leave

  • The United Nations is a major backer of Somalia, which is trying to claw its way out of the embers of the civil war that engulfed it in 1991
  • The Internal Security Ministry said that Robow was arrested on suspicion that he had brought militants and weapons back to the southern city of Baidoa

MOGADISHU: Somalia’s government has ordered the top United Nations official in the country to leave, accusing him of interfering with national sovereignty days after he raised concerns about the actions of UN-supported Somali security forces.
The foreign affairs ministry said in a statement late on Tuesday that Nicholas Haysom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, “is not required and cannot work in this country,” effectively declaring the official persona non grata.
“The decision comes after he openly breached the appropriate conduct of the UN office in Somalia,” the statement read.
There was no immediate comment from the UN mission in the volatile, impoverished country in the Horn of Africa.
The United Nations is a major backer of Somalia, which is trying to claw its way out of the embers of the civil war that engulfed it in 1991, when clan warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.
The government’s move comes after Haysom sent a letter dated Dec. 30 to the interior security minister expressing concern over “the alleged involvement of UN-supported Somali security forces in the arrest of Mukhtar Robow on 13 December, the deaths of 15 civilians...on 13, 14, and 15 December...and the arrest of approximately 300 people involved in the demonstrations on 13, 14, and 15 December.”
Robow, the individual referred to in the letter, is a former Islamist Al-Shabab militant whose bid to become a regional leader in the country in an election last month was blocked.
The Internal Security Ministry said that Robow was arrested on suspicion that he had brought militants and weapons back to the southern city of Baidoa, the capital of South West region where he is running for president.
His arrest sparked clashes between militiamen loyal to Robow and Somali forces. Ethiopian security forces, who are part of an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, were also involved in the violence.
Al Shabab has sought for over a decade to topple the central government and implement its strict version of Islamic law. It was driven out of the capital in 2011 but maintains a foothold in some regions including South West.
Robow, however, publicly renounced violence and recognized federal authority in 2017.
In the letter, Haysom asked the minister to explain the legal basis for Robow’s arrest. He also asked what action had been taken to investigate the circumstances of the deaths during the demonstrations in Baidoa following Robow’s arrest. He said that the UN understood that most of those detained were children.
The UN letter 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 also detailed the UN support to the Somali police force and the South West regional police which includes the payment of stipends to the police.


Boko Haram displaced feel forgotten amid Nigeria election fever

Updated 20 February 2019
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Boko Haram displaced feel forgotten amid Nigeria election fever

  • More than 27,000 people died and 1.8 million displaced since the start of Boko Haram conflict in 2009
  • Malkohi residents say they will support President Muhammadu Buhari because he helped curtail the extremists’ power

MALKOHI, Nigeria: Idriss Abdullahi was once a successful businessman and a husband to four wives, until the day he fled his home when Boko Haram insurgents advanced across northeastern Nigeria.
Five years on he lives beside dull farmland in a tented camp in Malkohi village, near the Adamawa state capital Yola, and tries to make a living selling firewood.
But the earnings are so meager he has had to divorce one of his wives.
“Even an animal lives better than me,” he told AFP in the camp he shares with 2,800 of his neighbors from the Borno state town of Gwoza, which the insurgents sacked in 2014.
More than 27,000 people have been killed since the Boko Haram conflict began in 2009 and some 1.8 million others are still displaced.
President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in 2015 on a pledge to end the insurgency, which at its peak saw the extremists control an area the size of Belgium.
In Abdullahi’s hometown, the wild-eyed leader of the extremists, Abubakar Shekau, declared an Islamic caliphate.
An offensive involving Nigerian troops and foreign mercenaries pushed them back. But in recent months there have been signs of resurgence.
Despite that, residents of Malkohi say they’re ready to support Buhari at Saturday’s rescheduled vote — even if they can’t return to Gwoza to do so.
“It’s not that we actually love him,” Abdullahi said of the president. “It’s that he saved our lives from Boko Haram.”
Shortly after taking office, Buhari declared Boko Haram “technically defeated,” apparently fulfilling the promise that was seen as a key to his victory.
But in February last year, the group seized 110 schoolgirls from Dapchi, in an echo of the 2014 abduction of more than 200 from Chibok that brought world attention to the conflict.
Malkohi itself hasn’t been spared; the group in 2015 bombed a government-organized camp across the road from the informal settlement where the former Gwoza residents stay.
An Islamic State-allied faction has in recent months overrun military bases, seizing equipment and weapons, and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee for their lives.
Nigeria’s election commission has been forced to set up special measures for them to vote: in Borno, some 400,000 displaced people will vote at 10 centers.
Several others have been created in Adamawa.
The main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, has seized on the insecurity and claimed Buhari has failed in his core duty of keeping Nigerians safe.
But from their homes in Adamawa — Abubakar’s home state — Malkohi residents say they feel more forgotten than under attack.
“Up to now, hospitals have not been provided. Before, [aid groups] gave us drugs, but now we don’t receive any,” said Fanta Ali, a housewife at the camp.
The Malkohi camp today is made up of rows of shacks separated by dirt paths, on which barefoot children and turkeys strut.
The makeshift homes are constructed from tarpaulin donated by aid agencies who also built a water tower for the settlement.
Many Malkohi residents were prosperous in Gwoza but without money to start businesses they now rely on manual labor to get by.
“Seriously, I’m suffering,” said Abdulrahman Hassen, once a merchant and chair of a professional association who now farms for a living.
Returning to Gwoza, where Boko Haram remains strong, is still a distant prospect. Helping people go home will be on the next president’s to-do list.
The displaced say they’re made to feel like outsiders in Adamawa, and local residents call them thieves for farming the land around the camp.
Gwoza was badly damaged when it was retaken in 2015, and cellphone reception is so weak residents climb trees to get a signal, said Yunussa Takda, a youth leader in Malkohi.
Meanwhile, the town’s outlying villages are still unsafe.
“Under Buhari, we’ve seen that a lot of our villages that have been taken by Boko Haram haven’t been recovered,” he said. “Maybe if he’s given a second chance, we can go home.”
Umaru Ibrahim Bakare lost track of his pregnant wife and then three-year-old daughter in the chaos of Boko Haram’s initial attack on the town, and has been looking for them ever since.
He made an unsuccessful trip to the Borno state capital, Maiduguri, aiming to find his family.
He remains hopeful after the Red Cross connected a friend with three children he’d lost when fleeing Boko Haram.
“We must vote Muhammadu Buhari to finish what he’s started and defeat the insurgency,” he said.