UN to appoint a new envoy to Somalia

African Union peacekeepers take position during a blast outside the main UN compound. (AP)
Updated 05 January 2019
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UN to appoint a new envoy to Somalia

  • Mogadishu refuses to reverse a decision to expel UN representative

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to Somalia after its president refused to reverse a decision to expel a representative for raising human rights concerns.

Guterres spoke by phone with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed on Friday — his second call to the Somali leader in three days — to once again urge him to change his mind, according to diplomats.

But the president dug in his heels and said UN envoy Nicholas Haysom would remain persona non grata and would not be allowed to return to Somalia, diplomats told AFP.

Guterres “deeply regrets” Somalia’s decision, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq, adding that the UN chief nevertheless intends to appoint a new UN envoy.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors to agree on a response to Somalia’s decision.

But during that meeting, China asked for more time to consider a draft statement put forward by Britain that expressed regret at the decision, diplomats said. The council reconsiders its response on Saturday.

In the British-drafted text, the council would express its support for the UN mission in Somalia and say it expects Somalia to fully cooperate with the UN.

Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was told to leave Somalia on Tuesday after he questioned the government’s decision to arrest an Al-Shabab defector who was running in elections.

Muktar Robow, who defected from Al-Shabab in 2017, was arrested last month and flown to the capital Mogadishu after announcing his bid for the state presidency in South West State.

Seeking probe

The arrest sparked protests in the southwestern town of Baidoa on Dec. 13-15 that were violently suppressed by Somalia’s security forces, leaving at least 15 dead.

In a letter sent to the government, Haysom requested an investigation of the protest violence and information on the legal basis for arresting Robow.

Haysom, who took up the post of UN envoy in October, warned the council during a meeting on Thursday of a risk of conflict during elections in Somalia’s federal states due to tensions with the central authorities.

The arrest of Robow could discourage other Al-Shabab militants “who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path,” said Haysom.

Somalia’s Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman told the council that the UN should not interfere in his country’s national affairs.

Former Al-Shabab militants “cannot assume leadership positions without going through stringent established rehabilitation programs,” he said, adding that a terrorist should not be allowed to rebrand himself as an “ice cream salesperson.”

The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions in the Horn of Africa nation, which were ruined by decades of civil war.


Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

Updated 16 January 2019
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Report raises fresh doubts over Trump’s NATO commitment

  • Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO
  • Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete”

WASHINGTON: Fresh doubts surfaced Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO, after he was reported to have discussed a desire to pull out of the trans-Atlantic military alliance.
Last year, Trump repeatedly told senior officials that he did not see the point of NATO — the historic alliance that forms the backbone of the West’s post-World War II security order — and that he wanted to withdraw, The New York Times reported.
He has often blasted members of the 29-nation partnership for not paying more into their national defense budgets.
Before taking office, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and soon after a tumultuous summit in July, he questioned whether the US would honor the alliance’s founding principle of mutual defense for newest member Montenegro.
Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US remains “100 percent” committed to NATO.
At the summit the president said the US “commitment to NATO is very strong” and “tremendous progress has been made” by allies and partners.
“That has not changed,” Pahon said in a statement.
“NATO remains the cornerstone of transatlantic security.”
In Brussels, a NATO official also highlighted Trump’s comments from the July summit.
“The United States is strongly committed to NATO and to transatlantic security,” the official told AFP.
“The US has significantly boosted its commitment to the defense of Europe, including with increased troop commitments.”
Turning 70 this year, NATO has underpinned Western security in Europe for decades, first countering the Soviet Union and then Russian expansionism.
A US withdrawal from NATO would be a strategic gift of epic proportions to Russia, which is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential elections to help Trump win.
Former defense secretary Jim Mattis was a staunch proponent of NATO and repeatedly visited its Brussels headquarters, where he sought to reassure allies about America’s commitment to the alliance.
But Mattis quit last month, and observers see a shrinking coterie of advisers around Trump willing to push back against him.
The US Congress, including Trump’s own Republican Party, would likely push back against any effort to withdraw from NATO.
The only country to have ever invoke Article 5, NATO’s collective defense principle, was America following the September 11, 2001 attacks.