New top UN man in Somalia

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South African Nicholas “Fink” Haysom has been replaced as the United Nations special representative in Somalia by James Swan.

In addition to being Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ special representative in the troubled East African country, Swan is also head of the UN mission (UNSOM).

Swan is an experienced diplomat with a long international career in the United States Government.  He spent most of his career in African countries facing complex political transitions.  He served as Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2013 to 2016, US Special Representative for Somalia from 2011 to 2013 and Ambassador to Djibouti from 2008 to 2011.

Earlier Swan served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 2006 to 2008 and Director of African Analysis in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 2005 to 2006.  Prior to these he Swan had assignments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, Somalia, Cameroon, Nicaragua and Haiti.

In January this year Haysom, described by the South African Institute for Security Studies (ISS) as a seasoned diplomat, was expelled from Somalia. He was allegedly accused of violating diplomatic rules and overstepping his authority by government when he questioned the legal basis for the arrest of a former al-Shabaab deputy leader standing for election in South West State.

Guterres said at the time declaring Haysom persona non grata did not accord with diplomatic rules because the UN was not a state and its personnel are not accredited, but deployed. Haysom is an experienced and respected international civil servant who distinguished himself in numerous senior leadership roles, in field and at UN headquarters.

He previously served as Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, head of the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and worked in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General after heading up the UN constitutional support team in Iraq during the 2005/2007 period.



In the 1990s, he served as Chief Legal and Constitutional Adviser in the Office of President Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically-elected leader.