The Expulsion of the UN SRSG from Somalia: Lesson Learned

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By Ismail Omar Ahmed

Regrettably in the past several decades Somalia was turned into an experimental lab where foreign imported ideas were implemented. The country was forced to adapt a dysfunctional federal system that has created more bureaucracy, increased political disunity and less efficiency in the government system. The political disunity has resulted in loopholes that threatens the rule of the law and the execution of the government’s day-to-day activities. The spoilers inside and
outside of the country use leaders of federal member states or MP’s to derail the Federal Government’s (FG) far reaching reform agenda. For instance, last year’s diplomatic rift between UAE and Somalia, the UAE government has attempted to use the regional leaders as a political tool to realize its selfish agenda in Somalia.

The spoilers in Somalia, which are many unfortunately have managed to organize a multifaceted political war against the current FG, feeding the public and the international community misleading state of the affairs of the country.

They believe the emerging reforms threatens their power and interests and are determined to use violence to undercut the recent progress made.
Presidential Election in Southwest State of Somalia The Presidential elections in Southwest State of Somalia was scheduled to take place on November 17, 2018 until a defected former Alshabab leader (Mr. Robow) turned politicians joined the race. The next day following his announcement as a candidate, the Minister of Internal Security of FGS issued a statement calling for his withdrawal citing his failure to complete the conditions of the rehabilitations set by the government. Mr. Robow refused to heed to the
government’s call and remained a security threat in Baidoa, the capital city of the Southwest State. Nevertheless, the FG managed several times to negotiate with Robow, but he refused to reach a deal and ordered hundreds of his troops to come to the city. The security situation in the city has drastically deteriorated leading to an obvious show of power between his forces and the law enforcement.

Therefore, the next logical step was a decision by the government to capture him and place him under arrest. Let us not forget that two opposing authorities cannot coexist in
the same place and it is the FG’s obligation to secure a peaceful election. Sadly, violence erupted following his arrest and a total of seven people died, four of which were members of the law enforcement.

One would assume the international community in particular the SRSG would assess the incident in Baidao and use it as an opportunity to correct the weakness within the Somali police force. When the violence erupted, one major weakness that emerged and required the immediate attention of the international community was the absence of anti-riot police in the city who is trained to deal with civil disobedience. The riot control officers are normally equipped with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and electric tasers and are better prepared to handle violence. They use whips to disperse crowds and detain riots. The Somali law enforcement forces had none of the above. How should law enforcements officials respond to apparent targeted attacks? The answer is obvious. Since the UN and the international community’s main support to Somalia is to strengthen the government institutions, the focus of the debate should have been fixing the Somali police forces with better
equipment and training programs involving human rights to avoid similar incidents to happen in the future. Attempting to incriminate law enforcement forces who are at the front-line to secure peace is a distortion of the reality. Nicholas Haysom’s Letter to the Somali Government Mr. Nicholas Haysom’s letter to the Somali government has raised eyebrows to anyone following Somalia very closely. It was an extremely biased letter, full of misinformation and lacked clear diplomatic etiquette.

Diplomacy is the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way. Reading the letter carefully one would agree that he acted recklessly. Mr. Haysom is a highly decorated diplomat who have served in many countries; consequently his actions seem to be deliberate. During a visit in Baidoa, he was quoted saying “I am aware that Somalia is not Mogadishu, Mogadishu is not Somalia” a clear signal of his bitterness against the FGS, which is really odd.

The decision to expel him was not taken lightly; the government weighed every option available.

Nevertheless, keeping Mr. Nicholas functional in the country was seen as a threat to the security and stability of Somalia as his letter and public statements were an encouragement to the spoilers to continue operating with impunity and possibly organize violence riots aimed at weakening the
government’s authority.

The critical difference between the success and failure of spoilers is determined by the role played by the international community who acts as guarantors of peace in conflict zones. The role chosen by Mr. Haysom was a disaster in the making as he completely ignored the fragility of the country and the fact that his distorted facts could lead to violence. Politicizing the incident and using institutional weakness as a ruse to incriminate the FGS is an irresponsible act.

The recent visit of the UK Minister of Defense in Somaliland is the continued divisive policy exercised in the past three decades. The international community is required to collectively seek to diffuse any imminent distractions that would delay the government’s agenda. The main driver of such engagement, however, is a political cohesion which seems to be lacking at the moment.

In anyway, Somalia is very grateful to the unwavering support it receives from the UN body and it will never forget that the UN Secretary General Mr. Antonio Guterres chose to visit Somalia on his first international trip after taking the office in 2017 validating Somalia to be at the top of the list of his priorities. Somalia is also very appreciative of the significant role the Secretary General of the UN played in easing the recent tension by promising to appoint anew SRSG.

Likewise, the Security Council unanimous decision underscoring the strong and continued commitment of the international community to support peace, stability and development in Somalia was a step in the right direction. This opens a new era of engagement and possibly an era based on mutual respect between Somalia and the UN body.