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Somalia: the lifting of the UN arms embargo poses serious security risks

The decision thus accepts the requests expressed for some time by the Mogadishu government, in a phase of maximum commitment against the jihadist group Al Shabaab


© Agenzia Nova - Reproduction reserved

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution tabled by the United Kingdom delegation to end the embargo on the supply of weapons to the Government of Somalia and its security forces, after more than 30 years. The Council also adopted a second resolution, again presented by the London delegation, to impose a new embargo on jihadist group al Shabaab. The decision thus accepts the requests expressed for some time by the Mogadishu government, moreover in a phase of maximum commitment against the jihadist group Al Shabaab. The decision represents a further political success for the president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, whose second mandate is obtaining various international recognition in terms of the fight against terrorism and for the security of the country. “Somalia can now access weapons, buy them from other countries and borrow them from our friends to defeat the terrorist group,” the president said in a speech broadcast live on television after the vote in New York. Mohamud said the UN decision will concretely support Somalia's efforts "in maintaining peace, promoting stability and promoting economic development", and praised his government's consistency in pursuing this objective, including through capacity building of defense of the country. The Somali leader then promised Mogadishu's commitment and vigilance over the flow of weapons, with the aim of reducing the misuse and illegal purchase of weapons by private individuals rather than the government. Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre was also satisfied, speaking of a "historic decision" and saying he was optimistic about the country's chances of defeating Al Shabaab, now able to procure "sophisticated weapons" that are decisive on the battlefield and to "rebuild an army strong".

During the New York session, which was held on Friday 1 December, two resolutions were adopted, based on a reasoning that intends to distinguish between the recipients of the armed orders. The first resolution, number 2713, renews the sanctions regime imposed against al Shabaab, extending the ban on illegal imports of weapons, their components or coal, necessary to build explosives. In the framework of this resolution, the United Nations also extended the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the multilateral body's Sanctions Committee until 15 January 2025. The second sanction, number 2714, instead lifts the embargo against the government of Somalia, a measure imposed in 1992 with the aim of protecting the Somalis from the civil war that broke out after the deposition of the president and military leader Mohamed Siad Barre, preventing the transfer of weapons between the parties to the conflict. In that difficult phase of Somali history, a quantity of weapons looted from abandoned barracks passed into the hands of local warlords, raising international concern for further destabilization of the East African country, the effects of which on regional security could have been dramatic in case of expansion of terrorism.

Subsequently, in the 2000 years, these same weapons were used by the militiamen of the Union of Islamic Courts, an Islamist alliance whose militiamen expelled the warlords from Mogadishu and later merged into the future al Shabaab. The intervention of African Union troops in Somalia (Amisom mission, later renamed Atmis) and the recovery of Mogadishu in 2011 led to an easing of sanctions without, however, ever eliminating them completely. Adopted with 14 votes in favor out of the 15 members, the resolution on maintaining sanctions on Al Shabaab saw France significantly abstain. Paris' position was probably influenced by the fear, long expressed by the UN group of experts on Somalia, that the total lifting of the embargo would cause a proliferation of weapons in a country where the government controls only half of the territory and junctions. commercial. Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a high rate of systemic corruption and where the diversion of weapons is widespread. According to data reported by "Le Monde", in 2016 almost 40 percent of the weapons imported from Mogadishu thanks to the exemptions from the embargo ended up on the black market, easy to access for militias and terrorist clans.

If the lifting of the government embargo is undoubtedly a political success for President Mohamud - the second shortly after Somalia's accession to the East African Community (Eac) -, the distinction made between official networks and the black market appears to be a gesture of international trust that is difficult to materialize in terms of monitoring and security. A 2022 study by the Somali research center Hiraal encouraged a review of the embargo by the international community in order to improve accountability and arms management processes, recalling that the previous year Al Shabaab had still managed to spend 24 million dollars in the purchase of weapons. Based on the data collected and published in the report entitled “Al Shabaab's arsenal: from taxes to terror”, the institute specifies that the terrorist organization affiliated with Al Qaeda spends an average of 2 million dollars a month on weapons, of of which 1,8 million are used for "internal" explosives and 150 thousand dollars for other types of weapons and notes that the group has revenues of around 180 million dollars a year and expected expenditure of around 100 million. Proof of how the embargo has not worked so far, and of the "great disparity between the weapons that are accessible to Al Shabaab and those available to the security forces of the Somali state". In this context, the withdrawal of the forces of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (Atmis) appears to be a further obstacle to the management of security in the country. Although temporarily suspended (at the request of the Somali government itself), the withdrawal of approximately 18 thousand units is expected by the end of 2024, opening up the uncertainty of a possible expansion and reorganization of Al Shabaab along the lines of what happened in the Sahel of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger after the withdrawal of French and international forces and the fall of institutional governments.

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