Somaliland: Government Voices Disapproval of the Lifted Somalia Arms Embargo


Abdilahi Ukuse, deputy information minister“For several years, the arms embargo on Somalia has been continuously violated with arms supplied to armed groups on all sides of the conflict” AI

By: Yusuf M Hasan

HARGEISA (Somalilandsun) – “The proliferation of weapons in Somalia is not conducive for security in the Horn”

This was stated by the Deputy information minister Hon Abdilahi Mohamed Dahir ‘Ukuse’ in reference to the UN lifting of Somalia government arms embargo for one year during which period the Mogadishu authorities are legally allowed to procure only light weapons.

Speaking at a BBC Somali service program the deputy information minister who also touched on reported disturbances in some areas of Selel region in the west of the country wondered on the safe handling of the weapons to be procured following the lifting of the embargo, considering the very many entities claiming authority in Somalia.

Hon Ukuse informed that there prevail in Somalia a number of diverse entities like clan militias, Terrorist groups, Anti central authority groups etc. that are constantly challenging the central government in Mogadishu for control of the country claiming authority in one place or another, thus fears for the ultimate destination of new military ordnance.

The Somali government believes lifting the embargo will help it strengthen its poorly equipped, ill-disciplined military, which is more a collection of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single president.

Though the Somalia succeed in having the embargo lifted even if for a limited period the authorities in Somaliland say that their objection is related to sustaining security improvements in the neighbouring and former ally Somalia as peace in the south will reflect positively not only in Somaliland but in the horn of Africa as well

We are also concerned by the ultimate destination and use of the weapons to be procured translates to heightened insecurity in our country especially as related to the Al-shabaab terrorist organization that is seeking safe havens elsewhere following its routing by various African armies that make up AMISOM” said Ukuse

The deputy information ministry whose boss is the official government spokesperson joins the defense minister Hon Ahmed Haji Adami who informed that the country is assessing its security priorities at a time when the Mogadishu authorities were busy soliciting the UN the Security Council to lift the arms embargo it had imposed in 1992.

The defence minister had warned that the administration in Hargeisa was closely following campaigns to lift the internationally imposed arms embargo on Somalia with intent to act appropriately as the situation maybe.Defence minister Ahmed Adami, warned of apropriate action

“If The US fronted bid to have the UN lift the arms embargo is successful Somaliland shall respond appropriately as per the threat the profusion of arms in Mogadishu entails to its security” Said Hon Adami.

The UN resolution which states that weapons and equipment “may not be resold to, transferred to, or made available for use by, any individual or entity not in the service of the security forces of the federal government of Somalia has failed to satisfy many including Somaliland.”

The Somaliland government is not alone in its opposition to the lifting of the arms as the human rights group Amnesty International had warned the U.N. Security Council not to lift the 21-year-old arms embargo in place for Somalia describing the idea as premature.

“Without adequate safeguards, arms transfers may expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation,” said Gemma Davies, Amnesty International’s Somalia researcher

“For several years, the arms embargo on Somalia has been continuously violated with arms supplied to armed groups on all sides of the conflict. The flow of arms to Somalia has fueled serious human rights abuses committed during the conflict,” Davies said in a statement.

Another voice in opposition came from Guatemala “The progress achieved (in Somalia) does not justify so far the lifting of the arms embargo,” Guatemala’s U.N. Ambassador Gert Rosenthal told the council after the vote.

Adding that “Guatemala believes that the Security Council should have adopted a phased approach to prevent the possible repercussions of an abrupt suspension of the embargo which could subsequently compromise the stabilization efforts in Somalia.”

The U.N. Security Council agreed on Wednesday to partially lift a decades-old arms embargo on Somalia for one year, allowing the government in Mogadishu to buy light weapons to strengthen its security forces to fight al Qaeda-linked Islamists.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a British-drafted resolution that also renewed a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force for a year and reconfigured the U.N. mission in the Horn of Africa country.

Somalia’s government had asked for the arms embargo to be removed and the United States supported that, but other Security Council members were wary about completely lifting the embargo on a country that is already awash with weapons, diplomats said.

“What we have tried to do is draw a balance between those who wanted an unrestricted lifting of the arms embargo and those who felt it was premature to lift the arms embargo,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after the vote. “It is a good and strong compromise.”

The Security Council imposed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of weapons to feuding warlords, who a year earlier had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged the country into civil war. Somalia held its first vote since 1991 last year to elect a president and prime minister.

“Yes there are major challenges, but we are now … moving away from international trusteeship of the situation in Somalia towards supporting the government’s efforts to address its own problems,” Lyall Grant said.

The Security Council resolution would allow sales of such weapons as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but leaves in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, large-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars as well as anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night vision weapon sights.

It also requires that the Somalia government or the country delivering assistance notify the Security Council “at least five days in advance of any deliveries of weapons and military equipment … providing details of such deliveries and assistance and the specific place of delivery in Somalia.”