MOGADISHU– Somalia’s government has ordered the UN top envoy to the country to leave, accusing him of “deliberately interfering with the country’s sovereignty” after raising concerns over the detention of former Islamist leader Muktar Robow.
The envoy had also questioned the involvement of Somalia’s UN-backed security services in the violence that erupted following Robow’s arrest and which left at least 15 people dead.
“The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Haysom, is no longer welcome in Somalia and cannot operate in the country,” the foreign ministry said in a statement late Tuesday.
There was no immediate reaction from the UN mission in Somalia.
Somalian security used force to put down three days of demonstrations in the southwestern town of Baidoa on 13-15 December, with at least 15 people killed and 300 people arrested, according to the UN.
Protesters were angry at the arrest of Muktar Robow, a former Islamist leader who was vying for post of regional presidency.
Robow, who defected from the jihadist Al-Shabaab movement in 2017, was detained by the government accused of seeking to “undermine stability”, and flown to the capital Mogadishu. His arrest came just days before a much-postponed regional election for the president of Somalia’s South West state.
Robow’s run for office exposed the tensions between Somalia’s federal states, which want greater autonomy from a national administration keen to safeguard its central powers.
The UN mission in Somalia is tasked with supporting peace efforts and the strengthening of government institutions in the Horn of Africa nation, which was left ruined by decades of civil war.
As part of that, the UN supports police officers, including with stipend salary payments, logistics, uniforms and training.
Haysom wrote to the Somali government on December 30, requesting details of the legal basis for the arrest of Robow, as well as calling for investigations into the deaths during the protests following his detention.
In his letter seen by France24, Haysom urged Somali authorities to “exercise its authority in conformance with the law and provide explanation about the atrocities committed in Baidoa last month and the detention of Mukhtar Robow.”
The UN mission in Somalia faces frequent attacks.
On Tuesday, three people were wounded including two UN staff members when gunmen fired a barrage of mortars into the main UN base in Mogadishu.
The Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Haysom, a South African lawyer and experienced diplomat who was previously the UN special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, was appointed to the post in Somalia September 2018.