Skip to content

Swan Returns to Oversee UNSOM, ATMIS Wind-Down as Concerns Mount Over Al-Shabaab Resurgence

Storyline:National News

GOOBJOOG NEWS|MOGADISHU: American diplomat and former UN head in Somalia, James Swan returned to Mogadishu Sunday to head the UN body temporarily as it winds up its activities in Somalia after more than one decade.

Swan was received Sunday by Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Fiqi following his appointment to the position by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. The UN diplomat served in the same capacity between 2019 and 2022 before he was succeeded by UK diplomat Catriona Laing who left early this year.

Swan also served as Special Representative for Somalia from 2011 to 2013. He has held diplomatic posts in Djibouti, DRC, Cameroon, Nicaragua and Haiti.

He returns to Somalia when the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) is at the tail end of its existence in Somalia. The Somali government wrote to the UN Security Council last month that it will not be requesting the extension of UNSOM’s mandates as from the end of this year.

“I have the honour to formally request the termination of the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), following a thorough consideration of our strategic priorities,” the Somali government said in a letter to UNSC, adding, “Going forward, the Somali Government will no longer request mandate renewal of resolution 2705 (2023).”

The letter added, “We believe that it is now appropriate to transition to the next phase of our partnership. We kindly request the swift conclusion of the necessary procedures for the termination of the Mission by the end of the mandate in October 2024.”

RELATED COVERAGE: Somalia Says No Longer in Need of UNSOM

UNSOM was established on 3 June 2013 by UN Security Council Resolution 2102, ‘following a comprehensive assessment of the United Nations in support of the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia.’

Swan is expected to lead the transition process of the UNSOM ahead of the October 2024 exit. He will play a critical in shaping the post-ATMIS security mandate in Somalia. The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) is also set to leave Somalia at the end of this year.

However, analysts and regional countries have raised concerns that the militant group Al-Shabaab may derail hard-won gains in the security sector. Kenya’s President William Ruto told the US administration on Friday to reconsider through the UN Security Council the withdrawal of ATMIS noting the situation in Somalia remained fragile.

“Our position is that the United States should step in and change the trajectory, otherwise we will exit ATMIS troops and the terrorists will take over Somalia. I don’t think it is in anybody’s interest for that to happen,” Ruto said during a state visit to the US.

ATMIS is expected to withdraw an additional 4,000 troops by next month keeping the force level at slightly above 10,000. On the campaign against Al-Shabaab, Somali government forces continue battling the group in central regions despite plans which envisaged the operations would already be in the southern states of Jubaland South West.