New leader expected at AU mission in Somalia after Madeira diplomatic tiff

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The African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia is expected to have a new leader in the coming days after the relationship between the host government and the head of the mission soured last week.

Diplomatic sources told The EastAfrican it would be “unrealistic” for Francisco Madeira to return to Somalia after the country stripped him of diplomatic privileges.

The source said Mr Madeira, a Mozambican, was being pressured to step down so that it doesn’t look like he had been fired.

Mr Madeira did not respond to our inquiries.

The head of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (Atmis) would have been celebrating the first few weeks of a new type of peacekeeping body, after Amisom, the mostly military mission targeting al-Shabaab that lasted 13 years, was replaced.

The transition period, however, coincided with revelations that Mr Madeira had run into trouble with the Somalia government after an audio emerged of him lampooning government officials for lethargy in dealing with security problems.

As of Thursday this week, the African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat was publicly adamant that he had “full trust and confidence” in Mr Madeira, a position supported by President Mohamed Farmaajo of Somalia, but which his Prime Minister Hussein Roble did not agree with.

On Monday, Mr Roble enforced Mr Madeira’s expulsion orders, including stripping him of diplomatic privileges such as VIP access at the airport, cancelling his diplomatic work permit and other power trappings he enjoyed while serving as the special representative of the African Union Commission chairperson and head of Atmis.

Declared persona non-grata

However, Mr Madeira had already left Mogadishu before he was declared persona non-grata on Friday last week, according to one diplomatic source.

But he had left behind a dysfunctional secretariat. This week, a leaked memo showed that his juniors were also not on talking terms and some had been staying away from the office without official leave.

The memo in question was authored by Mr Madeira’s deputy, South African diplomat Fiona Flortan, who complained of a “breakdown in relationship” with Babatunde Taiwo, the head of political affairs at the Mission.

Atmis hasn’t publicly commented on the issue of Mr Madeira, except in retweeting a brief statement from Mr Faki.

In 2020, an internal AU investigation discovered incidences of corruption, mismanagement, harassment and political interference.

The allegations

The report criticised Mr Madeira for mistreating employees, including refusing to provide sanitary towels, using abusive language, hijacking Amisom donations to gain political mileage and taking sides in situations where the mission is expected to be neutral.

“Madeira has said several times that Amisom will remain neutral during political disputes between Somali politicians, but this has not been matched by his actions,” says a leaked report filed last week by the Amisom Mission cell analysis chief, Walters Samah.

“Madeira introduced an erratic management and leadership style, characterised by fear, suspicion, threats, corruption, favouritism, bullying and intimidation,” the reported added, warning that if unchecked, the mission may fail to use its position to support the political process in Somalia.

Appointed in 2015, Mr Madeira, an experienced diplomat, has held the job since January 2016. He previously served as AU’s special envoy for counter-terrorism.

Our diplomatic source said one problem with the AU mission in Somalia is that “it doesn’t change its civilian heads regularly, making them develop interests.”

Mr Madeira replaced Maman Sambo Sidikou of Niger, who had also stayed for five years, a period deemed too long for a peacekeeping mission.

The East African