UN Maintains Somali Arms Embargo over Government Objections

Despite significant protests from Somalia’s government, the UN Security Council voted on Thursday to keep Somalia under a weapons embargo because sanctions are needed to weaken the activities of the al-Shabab “terrorist group,” which continues to pose a severe danger to regional peace and stability.

By a vote of 11-0, the resolution—which also expresses concern over the persistence of Islamic State extremist group affiliates in the Horn of Africa country—was approved in support of the African Union’s call for the Somali government to lift the arms embargo. Russia, China, Gabon, and Ghana chose to abstain.

The arms embargo is modified by the British-drafted resolution to take into account the government’s advancements in streamlining the management of weapons and ammunition.

Unless the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions objects within five working days of receiving notification from the government, Somalia may import portable surface-to-air missiles, higher-caliber mortars, anti-tank guided weapons, combat drones, some aircraft and vessels designed or modified for military use, and combat drones for use by its security forces and police.The benchmarks established following a recent technical evaluation emphasising Somalia’s progress, according to Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador James Kariuki, offer “a clear roadmap… that will allow this council make further modifications to weapons and ammunition measures in the future.”

The actions taken today, he said, “will streamline procedures for Somalia and its partners and help accelerate the journey.”

The resolution maintains the codified arms embargo, a ban on the sale or transfer of essential parts of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that Al-Shabab has employed, a ban on the import and export of Somali charcoal, a major source of income, and travel restrictions and asset freezes on people who pose a threat to the peace and are connected to Al-Shabab, including by providing financial support for or facilitating its operations.In order to stop the flow of weaponry to fighting clan-based warlords who overthrew ruler Mohamed Siad Barre the year before and sent the nation into civil war, the Security Council placed an arms embargo on Somalia in 1992.

In spite of attacks by extremists and one of the worst droughts the nation has ever seen, which has forced millions of people to the verge of famine, Somalia established a functioning transitional government in 2012 and has been fighting to restore stability ever since.Under the leadership of newly elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the government of Somalia has launched a fresh onslaught against al-Shabab, including initiatives to disrupt its finance system.

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

Specifically designed to encourage and facilitate “strong action” by the government to confront al-Shabab, particularly by robbing the extremist group of its financial resources, he claimed that the sanctions regime put in place on Thursday. And he urged all countries to implement sanctions and deprive al-Shabab of the ability to access funds and weapons.
Abukar Osman, the U.N. ambassador for Somalia, welcomed the four nations who did not vote in favour of the continuation of the arms embargo and voiced “grave displeasure” with it.

He cautioned that efforts to rebuild the nation’s security forces to fight al-Shabab are being hampered by the arms embargo, which is the longest U.N. sanctions system.

“Our hands are tied in the war against the vicious enemy at this most critical time,” Osman added, citing the army’s usage of “a substantial chunk” of its arsenal during confrontations with al-Shabab in the previous four months.

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

Ambassador Martin Kimani of Kenya, whose neighboring country has also been targeted by al-Shabab, supported the resolution, saying the Security Council 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.”

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