March, 26

UN agrees to extend arms embargo on Somalia

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UN agrees to extend arms embargo on Somalia
UN agrees to extend arms embargo on Somalia.

The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend an arms embargo on Somalia for another year, over strong objections from the Somali government. The Council said that al-Shabab, a militant group based in Somalia, still poses a serious threat to peace and stability in the region, and that the sanctions are needed to degrade its activities.

The arms embargo has been in place since 1992, and has been renewed every year since then. The Somali government has been arguing for its lifting, saying that it needs to be able to purchase arms to help fight al-Shabab. However, the Security Council has so far been unwilling to lift the embargo, citing concerns that the arms would end up in the hands of al-Shabab militia.

The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution lifting the arms embargo on Somalia, following a request from the Somali government. The resolution expresses concern at the continued presence of affiliates of the ISIL (ISIS) group in the country, and calls on all parties to redouble their efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. Russia, China, Gabon and Ghana abstained from the vote in support of the Somali government’s request.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously adopted a resolution that partially lifts the arms embargo on Somalia, in recognition of the Somali government’s progress in improving its management of weapons and ammunition.

The resolution, drafted by the United Kingdom, allows Somalia to import portable surface-to-air missiles, higher-calibre mortars, anti-tank guided weapons, some aircraft and vessels designed or modified for military use, and combat drones for use by its security forces and police. However, the UNSC committee monitoring sanctions will have five working days to object to any proposed import, based on concerns that the weapons might be used to violate human rights or international humanitarian law.

Following a recent technical assessment of Somalia’s progress, James Kariuki, the United Kingdom’s deputy UN ambassador, stated that the identified benchmarks provide “a clear roadmap … that will help this council make further changes to weapons and ammunition measures in the future”. He went on to say that “The steps made today will simplify processes for Somalia and its partners, and help speed up the journey”. These changes will no doubt be welcomed by all those involved in the effort to stabilise and rebuild Somalia.

The Security Council reaffirmed its commitment to stability in Somalia and the region, and to combating the threat posed by al-Shabab. The resolution extends the mandate of the Somalia and Eritrea sanctions regime until November 15, 2020. The resolution keeps in place the codified arms embargo, a ban on the sale or transfer of key components of improvised explosive devices that al-Shabab has used, a ban on the import and export of Somali charcoal that was a key moneymaker, and travel bans and asset freezes on individuals threatening peace and associated with al-Shabab, including by financing or facilitating its activities.

The UNSC imposed the arms embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of weapons to feuding clan-based strongmen who toppled the previous leader, Mohamed Siad Barre, plunging the country into civil war. The embargo was intended to limit the ability of the clan-based militias to continue fighting, and to help restore some measure of stability to the country. However, it has had only limited success, as the clan-based militias have continued to fight each other, and the country has remained in a state of chaos.

Somalia established a functioning transitional government in 2012, having been previously wracked by armed conflict and instability. The new government has been working to improve conditions in the country, which has been further destabilised in recent years by a severe drought that has brought thousands of people to the brink of famine. While the situation in Somalia remains precarious, the establishment of a functioning government is a positive step towards stability and prosperity.

Somalia’s new government, under recently elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has been engaged in a new offensive against al-Shabab. This has included shutting down its financial network. While al-Shabab has been pushed out of major cities and its territory has shrunk, it is still a major threat in Somalia and the region. The group has been linked to terrorist attacks in Kenya and Uganda, and continues to plot attacks against targets in the region. The Somali government’s offensive against al-Shabab is an important step in combatting terrorism in the region.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood expressed hope that the government will continue to make progress on the benchmarks, allowing for further easing of the arms embargo.

He said the sanctions regime adopted on Thursday is tailored to support and enable “robust action” by the government to combat al-Shabab, including by depriving the group of its financial resources. And he urged all countries to implement sanctions and deprive al-Shabab of the ability to access funds and weapons.

‘Deep dissatisfaction’

Somalia’s UN Ambassador Abukar Osman expressed “deep dissatisfaction” with the extension of the arms embargo at the UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday. He praised the four countries that abstained from voting for the extension, saying they “showed political will and leadership” by not supporting it.

“The Security Council’s decision today is a clear violation of Somalia’s sovereignty and a setback to our efforts to build a capable and professional security force,” Osman said in a statement. “The arms embargo will only serve to hinder our fight against terrorism and extremism.”

“We call on the Security Council to reconsider its decision and to allow Somalia to purchase the weapons and equipment it needs to protect its people and defend its territories.

He warned that the arms embargo, which is the longest UN sanctions regime, is hindering efforts to rebuild the country’s security forces to counter al-Shabab.

The army used “a major portion” of its armaments during engagements with al-Shabab in the last four months, Osman said, and as a result of the arms embargo renewal, “our hands are tied in the fight against the ruthless enemy at this most critical time”.

Osman said victims of Somalia’s “terrorist groups” are asking why lifting the arms embargo is a threat to international peace and security while other countries are being armed to defend their territory and people.

“This unjust and unfair double standard is preventing the government of Somalia from legally obtaining military lethal equipment to rebuild its national army,” he told the UNSC.

Ambassador Martin Kimani of neighbouring Kenya, which has also been targeted by al-Shabab, supported the resolution, saying the UNSC had taken “a strong stand together against terrorism”.

But he also urged an end to the arms embargo.

“There is little doubt that the battlefield conduct and the determination of the Somali forces and government will in short order lead to the dropping of the embargo,” Kimani said. “The partial arms embargo in Somalia cannot exist in perpetuity, as it is counterproductive and adversely affects the capability of the federal government to eradicate the existential threat posed by al-Shabab.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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