The African Union dropped one of the top diplomats from Somalia’s mediation team after protests from members of the National Salvation Forum [NSF], a conglomerate of several opposition parties in the Horn of Africa nation, in what could rejuvenate impending talks.
African Union Commission has already appointed former Ghanaian President John Mahama as the High Representative for the Somalia crisis and would be joined by a litany of advisers who would try to unravel the current electoral impasse in the country.
But the opposition, in a letter sent to the commission among other stakeholders, protested the inclusion of Babatunde Taiwo, who is the Head of AMISOM Political Affairs Division, noting that “we are deeply concerned with his inclusion in the team.
According to NSF, Mr Taiwo is a “toxic influence in Somali politics”, adding that “he serves as a proxy for Villa Somalia’s influence, is a paid agent of the National Intelligence and Security Agency, and is a notorious broker of confidential information”.
The team insisted that Taiwo inclusion was “unacceptable to the NSF due to the corrupt nature of his relationship with Villa Somalia”. Further, it said, “we cannot accept the AU Special Envoy’s participation in any sensitive dialogue or other forms of communication as long as Mr Taiwo is in any position to have access to the same”.
“We therefore respectfully request the withdrawal of Mr Taiwo’s candidacy from consideration for the Special Envoy’s team and strongly recommend that he be reassigned to another AU department or mission,” the NSF added in a statement.
But Garowe Online has learned that the newly appointed High Representative for AUC John Mahama has since dropped Taiwo from his team for the sake of “impartially” in the impending talks. It’s not clear when Mahama and his team will land in Somalia.
The appointment of Mahama was well-received throughout Somalia with most leaders hailing his “democratic conscious” during his time as Ghanaian president. The National Salvation Forum also welcomed his appointment, besides lauding African Union for rejecting President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo’s term extension.
“The NSF applauds the decision of the AU Peace and Security Council to reject the ex-president’s unilateral term extension in breach of Somalia’s Provisional Constitution,” it said in a statement.
“We further welcome the PSC’s decision to appoint a Special Envoy to assist in the facilitation of dialogue between Somali political stakeholders to finalize agreement upon the framework and modalities for the conduct of indirect elections for a new Federal Parliament and President with the least possible delay,” NSF added.
Somalia’s political stakeholders are set to hold talks over elections and Mahama is set to play a crucial role. Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble had slated talks for May 20 after the end of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan which is accompanied by many festivities.