KIBII: Somalia-UN diplomatic spat raises questions on al Shabaab defectors

Mukhtar Robow/ AGENCIES
Mukhtar Robow/ AGENCIES

There is a diplomatic spat between Somalia and the United Nations.

This follows the expulsion of UN special envoy Nicholas Hysom from the country. A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday accused Haysom of interfering with Somalia’s domestic affairs.

He had questioned the legal basis used in the arrest of Mukhtar Robow, a former al Shabab spokesman who defected from the group in 2013, and whether UN-funded regional police in the Southwest were involved.

Robow surrendered in 2017 and was pardoned by the US.

He announced plans to vie for the South West Federal State presidential election but his bid was rejected by the Ministry of Interior in October last year, saying he cannot run for public office as he is a beneficiary of a presidential pardon and still faces sanctions. In November, however, the chairman of the regional election commission cleared him, arguing he has a right to run for the office as he is a Somali citizen. He was arrested a few days before the election and handed over to the Somalia government. The election went on despite his arrest and as a result, there were protests in which 15 people, according to Hysom, were killed. Somalia is not backing down.

“While we strive to re-establish the rule of law and end a culture of impunity, we reject the criticism and attempts to rebrand renowned terrorists as ice-cream salesmen without redeeming themselves,” Somalia Ambassador to the UN Abukar Osman said .

And when asked by BBC’s Peter Okwoche if there’s any room for negotiation with the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia, Foreign Minister Ahmed Isse Awad said, “Haysom’s decision is final – we have tolerated enough and Haysom is gone.”

It is, however, the issue of handling al Shabaab defectors that comes into play is this dispute.

In an article published in this paper by Mary Schwoebel and Mohamed Mukhtar, who are scholars in the US, they argued, “To achieve sustainable peace in this long-suffering region, residents should be granted the right to choose their own leaders – those whom they believe will prioritise

the interests and the needs of the people. This is the promise of federalism and how it is supposed to work.”

They said if the international community is genuinely interested in building peace in Somalia, it must acknowledge history, which “teaches us that the best way to end insurgencies is to bring insurgents into the political process”.

In their view, if allowed to run for office, (former) insurgents bring their fighters, followers, supporters, and sympathisers

with them out of the shadows into the civic life.

But there is fear that if the ex-terrorists gain political power, they might use it to cause more harm. Other says it might incentivise others to use terror, later trade it with amnesty and end up running for office.

Kibii comments on current affairs