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Somalia is ‘dream job’ for diplomat Mike

By Christie Breen

Mike Nithavrianakis was appointed as the UK’s Consul-General and Trade Director to Italy’s most stylish city in November.

But the dad-of-two who has served the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in potentially hazardous environments including Russia, Afghanistan and Iraq, has now ditched the glamour of Milan to become the UK’s new Ambassador to Somalia.

The 56-year-old from Castle Douglas admitted: “For me it’s a dream job, but my daughter Lucy was not best pleased because it’s scuppered her big plans to visit Italy.

“The security situation in Somalia means that my family cannot accompany me and it’s only natural that they will worry about me being based in Mogadishu.

“I’ve had many postings which would not likely feature on anyone’s list of holiday destinations.

“I don’t know why but I have always found that the more challenging the environment, the more interesting, stimulating and rewarding the role tends to be.”

Previous postings have included Pakistan and Ghana and he said: “Nobody has ever forced me to go anywhere, and I feel lucky to have had the privilege of representing the UK in diverse and fascinating places.

“I joined the FCDO straight from school when I was 17. In those days, young diplomats tended to be sent to cut their teeth in places like Paris, Brussels and Bonn, and I remember pleading with HR, ‘Look, I didn’t join the Foreign Office to go to Germany, France or Belgium. Send me somewhere off the beaten track, please’.

“So, they posted me to Malaysia, which was great, as at that time, I didn’t even know where Kuala Lumpur was.

“I enjoy working in places that are culturally very different to the UK, where there is so much to learn and immerse yourself in.”

His newest posting, Somalia, faces serious security problems with Islamist terror group al-Shabaab carrying out frequent attacks in the capital Mogadishu. The UK Government is supporting Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud after he launched a once-in-a-generation campaign to defeat the terrorist organisation, and committed to find peaceful solutions to other internal disputes, at a time when the country has been experiencing a devastating drought, with nearly half the population in need of lifesaving assistance.

The risks faced by diplomats serving in conflict-affected states has been underlined by the violence that has erupted in nearby Sudan.

The UK has completed the largest and longest emergency evacuation of any Western nation – pulling out over 2,450 people on 30 flights after fighting broke out killing more than 500 people.

Mike, who will lead over 80 staff working in Somalia, said: “Last year’s al-Shabaab attacks mean I’m under no illusion about the dangers. I’ll have to get used to frequent road trips wearing body armour, which is cumbersome, but an important safety protocol.”

He says the support of wife Libby and his family, plus running, helps him handle the stress and he added: “I genuinely love my job representing Scotland and the UK, even if some twitter troll responded to the announcement of my new role by saying, ‘Oh my God, they’re bringing in some aged, mummified diplomat’. I thought that was hilarious, but the serious point behind it is that experience does count for a lot.

“The FCDO is often at the eye of the storm, but public service is at the heart of everything we do. Our diplomats are proud to fly the flag for the UK in every hazardous corner of the world.”

Source: DND24

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