Somali PM orders African Union envoy to leave the country
Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has declared Ambassador Francisco Madeira, the African Union President’s Special Representative for Somalia, persona non grata and ordered him to leave the country within 48 hours.
In a late-night statement, Roble accused Madeira of “engaging in acts inconsistent with his status.”
Roble requested that the AU Commission recall Madeira and “comply with this request”.
But Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, immediately rejected the expulsion in what appears to be another dispute between the country’s top leaders. In a statement, the president said he had not authorized any action against Madeira. Nor has he received any reports from Madeira’s foreign ministry committing acts against the country’s sovereignty, he said.
The president said the decision to expel Madeira was taken by an office that was not solely responsible for making such a crucial decision. Madeira could not immediately be reached for comment.
Madeira, originally from Mozambique, was appointed to the post in October 2015. He is not the first foreign diplomat to be expelled from Somalia.
Madeira MP Simon Mulongo was expelled in November.
In January 2019, the Somali government declared former United Nations envoy to Somalia Nicholas Haysom persona non grata for “breaching protocols” and interfering in the affairs of Somalia.
Haysom’s expulsion from Somalia came after he asked the government whether UN-backed forces were involved in the killing of protesters in Baidoa in December 2018.
The shooting, which left a dozen people dead, came as violence erupted following the arrest of former al-Shabab deputy leader Mukhtar Robow, also known as of Abu Mansour, to prevent him from running in the regional elections.
Prior to his deportation, Haysom demanded answers from the Somali government on the legal basis for the arrest of Robow, who remains in custody. In an exclusive interview with VOA in October last year, Robow said he was being held for political reasons and to prevent him from running for office.
New AU mission
The decision to expel Madeira came just days after the United Nations Security Council authorized a new AU Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) to operate in the country until the end of 2024. ‘ATMIS replaces the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
The UN mandate gives ATMIS forces to reduce the threat posed by al-Shabab, support the capacity building of integrated Somali security and police forces, and carry out a gradual handover of security responsibilities to Somalia, depending on the resolution.
ATMIS will have 19,626 men, including at least 1,040 police officers. It will operate in the country until December 2022, when it will be reduced by 2,000 troops. The troop reduction will continue in September 2023 and again in June 2024 by 2,000 troops each time until the end of the mission in December 2024.
Under the new arrangement, the Somali government also pledges to assume security responsibilities for AU forces. The Somali government needs to generate over 22,825 forces by June 2024 to take over from ATMIS.
In the first official statement from the Somali government, Roble announced on Wednesday evening that he welcomed the new ATMIS mission and looked forward to working with the new mission chief.
But security experts say there is little difference between AMISOM and ATMIS.
“For me, (it’s) just a name-changing exercise,” said Samira Gaid, who oversaw Somali security reform under former prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire. “Nothing substantial has changed, i.e. the number of soldiers, the composition of the countries and the sectors they are in, their mandate remains largely the same, fighting AS (al-Shabab) and supporting the FGS (Federal Government of Somalia)”.
Gaid, now executive director of the Hiraal Institute, a security think tank, said she believed the Somali government could generate forces before ATMIS pulled out, but there was uncertainty about force equipment.
“The Somali government has no problem with force generation. He has a problem with maintaining strength, and that remains the main problem,” she said. “Forces can be generated, but without the required lethal and non-lethal support, transition will always be unlikely.”