Expelled UN envoy raises concerns about Somali poll

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The United Nations envoy to Somalia warned the arrest of a former militant leader could deter others from choosing politics over violence, speaking publicly about the incident despite being kicked out of the country just days earlier for privately expressing concerns to government.

Nicholas Haysom briefed the UN Security Council in New York but did not address a statement issued by Somalia’s foreign affairs ministry accusing him of interfering in internal affairs and said he “cannot work in this country.”

Haysom raised questions in a letter on Sunday about the involvement of UN-supported Somali security forces in the arrest of a former militant of the Islamist al Shabaab group blocked from running in a recent regional election.

He told the 15-member Security Council allegations of interference by the federal government in the regional election and violence that followed the former militant’s arrest “does not bode well for the upcoming electoral processes in other regions or for the 2020 national elections.”

“This may also have implications for future al Shabaab defectors who may be considering exchanging violence for a political path,” said Haysom, a South African.

Somalia showed no signs of backing down from its decision to effectively make Haysom persona non grata. The United Nations was looking into the matter and Haysom would meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The United Nations is a major backer of Somalia, a country that lacked strong central government since 1991. Government’s decision on Haysom could intensify a confrontation between Mogadishu and the semi-autonomous regions.

Somalia UN Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman told the Security Council the Somali people wanted “Somalia leading international support, not international support leading Somalia.”

“Somalia distinguishes between the institutions we are part of and individual conduct that’s had detrimental effect on our fragile nation,” he said. “We reject the criticism and attempt to re-brand renewed terrorists as an ice cream salesperson without redeeming themselves.”