Somalia has rejected the appointment of former Ghanaian President John Mahama as African Union’s (AU) special envoy to help mediate its political impasse with Kenya.
Somalia argues that the former Head of State has “extensive links” with Kenya, and has written to AU Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat notifying him that Somalia will no longer support Mr Mahama in his new role.
Mohamed Abdirazak, Somalia’s Foreign and International Cooperation Minister, says the Ghanaian ex-leader is closely associated with the leadership in Kenya, without specifying who in particular. Based on this alone, he says, Mr Mahama cannot be trusted to be impartial and deliver an acceptable solution.
In a letter riddled with grammatical mistakes, Mr Abdirazak claims that the AU did not thoroughly scrutinise Mr Mahama’s background before appointing him to the role.
“It is indeed surprising that a candidate with extensive links with Kenya’s leadership has been chosen by the AU to facilitate talks on a political impasse partly engineered by those the Kenyan leadership has supported,” says the letter dated May 9 but which was circulated among diplomats on Tuesday.
“Given the politically sensitive nature of the task of a high representative in any case, I am certain you will appreciate the importance of any candidate for such a post to be seen as impartial and without any links to the region.”
Mr Mahama, who ruled Ghana between 2012 and 2017, was on Saturday named the High Representative of the African Union for Somalia’s political mediation. A statement from the AU said he will "will work with the Somali stakeholders to reach a mutually acceptable compromise towards an all-encompassing resolution for the holding of Somali elections in the shortest possible time."
“In fulfilling his mandate, the High Representative will be supported by Amisom to ensure that the mediation efforts and the peace support operation work together seamlessly.”
It is likely that the continental body picked Mr Mahama based on its own assessment of his qualities as a mediator. In 2017, he led election observers for the Commonwealth Observer Mission at the Kenyan polls. However, he angered a number of Kenyan opposition leaders for endorsing the vote as “credible and inclusive”, but the election was later overturned by the Supreme Court.
He became an unpopular figure in Nairobi after that.
But Somalia’s accusation now means that he cannot take up the role. Mogadishu’s argument is also a longshot that prevents Mr Mahama from ever engaging in the country’s political mediations.
According to Mr Abdirazak, the decision to name a special envoy has been overtaken by events, given that Prime Minister Hussein Roble had already brokered a deal to have parties resume discussions for holding indirect elections.
“It is my concern, [that] deploying an envoy in the process now will only confuse the present amicable arrangements and at worse risk the politicisation of the process further than necessary,” he wrote.
Last week, Qatar’s Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution, Dr Mutlaq bin Majed al-Qahtani, helped broker a deal between opposition groups and the Federal Government of Somalia.
Qatar, previously loathed by opposition groups, also beat the AU to the Somalia-Kenya mediation role after deploying the special envoy earlier and getting the Horn country to reconsider severing ties. Shortly after his visit, Somalia announced that it would be restoring diplomatic ties with Kenya.
The UN, however, had endorsed Mr Mahama as mediator for the African Union. In a statement on Sunday, Stéphane Dujarric, the Spokesperson of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the global agency would give “full support for this African Union initiative.”