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.


China’s Xi arrives in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong Un

Updated 2 min 53 sec ago
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China’s Xi arrives in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong Un

  • The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons
  • Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived Thursday morning for a two-day state visit to North Korea, where he’s expected to talk with leader Kim Jong Un about the stalled negotiations with Washington over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Xi was accompanied by his wife, Peng Liyuan, and several Communist Party officials. He is the first Chinese president to visit North Korea in 14 years.
The summit comes as both Xi and Kim are locked in separate disputes with the United States — Xi over trade and Kim over his nuclear weapons.
A Xinhua commentary said China could play a unique and constructive role in breaking the cycle of mistrust between North Korea and the US so they can work out a roadmap to achieve denuclearization.
The US is demanding that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons development before international sanctions are lifted. North Korea is seeking a step-by-step approach in which a step toward its denuclearization would be matched by a concession from the US, notably a relaxation of economic sanctions.
China backs what it calls a “suspension for suspension” proposal. The Xinhua said both sides “need to have reasonable expectations and refrain from imposing unilateral and unrealistic demands.”
Experts say Xi will likely endorse North Korea’s calls for an incremental disarmament process.
Chinese and North Korea media have said Xi would stay in Pyongyang for two days. His meeting with Kim would their fifth summit since Kim entered nuclear diplomacy with the United States and South Korea early last year.
In an essay published in both countries’ official media before his trip, Xi praised North Korea for moving in the “right direction” by politically resolving issues on the peninsula. He did not mention Kim’s nuclear diplomacy with the US in the article, much of which focused on lauding the neighbors’ seven-decade relationship. Xi said his visit will “strengthen strategic communication and exchange” between the traditional, though sometimes strained, allies.
The nations fought together in the 1950-53 Korean War against the United States, South Korea and their allies, but there has been friction in recent years, especially over the North’s relentless push for nuclear weapons.