Country Risk

Expulsion of envoy unlikely as UN operations continue in Somalia, but regions co-operate to undermine security transition

04 January 2019

The newly elected president of Somalia's autonomous South West state, Abdiaziz Hassan Mohamed (left), delivers a speech after being elected from five candidates by legislators in Baidoa, Somalia, on 19 December 2018. Source: Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • The United Nations' special representative of the secretary-general is unlikely to be expelled from Somalia, with the UN continuing in 2019 to support Somali National Army (SNA) troops in joint operations with African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces that are focused on securing main supply routes in southern parts of the country.
  • The Federal Government of Somalia's (FGS) arrest on 13 December 2018 of the front-running South West state presidential candidate, Mukhtar Robow, a former militant, was based on weak legal grounds, which will probably motivate further violent protests in Baidoa during January and reduce the likelihood that Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (Al-Shabaab) members will defect to the FGS.
  • Puntland's president, Abdiweli Gaas, who has been a close ally of federal President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, probably believes that the FGS is willing to undermine his own re-election prospects on 8 January. This increases the likelihood that the federal member states will co-ordinate to oppose the implementation of an FGS-backed security handover from AMISOM to the SNA during a phased, conditions-based drawdown in 2019-20.


Somalia's foreign minister on 1 January said the United Nations' envoy would be expelled following his criticism of the federal government's handling of regional elections. This does not reflect official policy, with UN operations continuing. The federal government does, however, face opposition from the regional states, undermining the fight against Al-Shabaab.

Somalia's foreign minister said on 1 January that the UN's special representative of the secretary-general (SRSG) had been designated as persona non grata. IHS Markit sources report, however, that the expulsion was not approved by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and that the SRSG's expulsion had not been requested via official channels. Neither Somalia's president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nor Prime Minister Ali Khaire have publicly acknowledged or supported the foreign minister's statement.

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