UN council regrets Somalia’s decision to expel envoy

Nicholas Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government’s arrest of an Al-Shabab defector who ran for election. (AP)
Updated 06 January 2019
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UN council regrets Somalia’s decision to expel envoy

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to replace Nicholas Haysom
  • The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Saturday expressed regret after Somalia expelled a UN envoy but added that it expected “full cooperation” between Somalia and the United Nations.
The council released the unanimous statement after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Friday agreed to appoint a new UN envoy to replace Nicholas Haysom, who was declared persona non grata by the Mogadishu government on January 1.
Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat, was ordered to leave after he questioned the government’s arrest of an Al-Shabab defector who ran for election.
The British-drafted statement expressed “regret” for the decision and expressed full support for the UN mission to Somalia.
Council members reiterated “their expectation of full cooperation between Somalia and the United Nations,” it added.
The council met behind closed doors on Friday to discuss a response to Somalia’s decision but China asked for more time to consider the text, diplomats said.
China presented amendments on Saturday to stress that the council respects Somalia’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence and unity,” diplomats said.
The council statement said 2019 will be a “critical year for Somalia” and called on its leaders “to work together to advance political and security reforms.”
On Friday, Guterres’ spokesman said the UN chief “deeply regrets” the decision to expel Haysom but that he nevertheless intends to appoint a new envoy.
Guterres spoke twice by phone with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed to urge him to reverse the decision but the Somali president told him on Friday that Haysom would not be welcomed back, diplomats said.
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 Muktar Robow could discourage other Al-Shabab militants “who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path,” said Haysom.
Robow, who defected from the Islamist Al-Shabab group in 2017, was arrested last month and flown to the capital Mogadishu after announcing his bid for the state presidency in South West State.
The arrest sparked protests in the southwestern town of Baidoa on December 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.
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.


Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

Algerian supporters celebrate in Guillotiere district in Lyon, central eastern France after the victory of their team over Nigeria during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) semi-final football match, on July 14, 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 28 min 33 sec ago
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Algerian football fans touch off national identity debate in France

  • Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening
  • Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe

PARIS: Thousands of extra French police are set to be on duty later Friday in Paris and other major cities following clashes involving Algerian football fans that have touched off a debate about national identity.

Algeria play Senegal in the final of the African Cup of Nations on Friday evening with excitement high in France which is home to a huge Algerian-origin population due to the country’s colonial history.

Thousands of people partied in the streets when Algeria won its quarter-final on July 11 and then again for the semifinal on July 14, but the celebrations were later marred by pillaging and street clashes. “I call on people celebrating, even if I understand their joy, to behave themselves,” Paris police chief Didier Lallement told a press conference on Wednesday.

Around 2,500 police officers will be mobilized around the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe where crowds set off fireworks and flew flags from car windows last Sunday, which was also France’s national Bastille Day.Clashes with police in the early hours, following pillaging the week before, saw more than 200 people arrested, leading to condemnation from the police and government, as well as far-right politicians.

The fact that the semifinal coincided with Bastille Day, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces, irked nationalist politicians in particular who worry about the effects of immigration. “Like lots of French people, I was shocked to see French people take down the French flag and put up the Algerian one,” far-right politician Nicolas Dupont-Aignan said on Friday morning.

Dupont-Aignan said the French-born Algeria fans, many of whom have dual nationality, could “go back” to north Africa if their preference was for Algeria. “I want to ask these young people, who are a minority I hope: France has welcomed you, fed you, educated you, looked after you, but if you prefer Algeria, if it’s better than France, go back to Algeria!"

Violence has flared in France in the past after major football games involving Algeria including during World Cup games in 2014, which led far-right leader Marine Le Pen to propose stripping rioters of their French nationality.

“Their victories are our nightmare,” a spokesperson for Le Pen’s National Rally party, Sebastien Chenu, said Monday. “Whenever there’s a match with Algeria... there are problems.”

A France-Algeria friendly in 2001 in Paris saw the French national anthem copiously booed in what was the first meeting on the pitch between the countries since Algeria’s independence in 1962 following 130 years of French rule.

The National Rally has called for Algeria fans to be barred from the Champs-Elysees on Friday, a demand dismissed as impractical and unfair by the Paris police force. “For me, the people coming to the Champs-Elysees are joyous citizens,” police chief Lallement told the press conference.

Others have pointed out that the overwhelming majority of fans marked Algeria’s last two victories in the Africa Cup peacefully and that many Franco-Algerians feel free to celebrate the successes of both countries. “We are saddened by the events of July 14,” Faiza Menai from Debout l’Algerie, a collective that unites members of the Algerian diaspora in France, told AFP on Thursday.

She recalled that France had seen six months of violent demonstrations during the so-called “yellow vest” protests against the government, which were supported by Le Pen and other far-right groups. The football violence was caused by not only by Algerians, she said, and was the result of an angry minority living frustrated lives in low-income and neglected suburban areas that ring French cities.

“It’s a pity that there are people who show up just to cause trouble. As in the case of the yellow vests, you have these young guys who missed the point — they come in from the suburbs and take advantage of the situation to get their revenge,” she said.

Her group plans to send out volunteers in florescent orange vests to the Champs Elysees to “try to limit the damage by raising awareness among supporters and lending a hand to authorities.”

Azouz Begag, a novelist and former minister in France’s government in 2005-2007, called on fellow Franco-Algerians to “state again after the match against Senegal that they are in their home in France, that they pay taxes and are voters.“The public spaces of the republic are theirs,” he wrote in Le Monde.