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UN lifts Somalia arms embargo

The restrictions were imposed in 1992 as a means to halt the flow of weapons to feuding warlords

The United Nations Security Council voted on Friday to lift its last restrictions on the sale of weapons to Somalia’s government and armed forces, removing the final elements of a long-standing arms embargo.

The UN imposed the ban in 1992 to limit the availability of weapons to warlords in the East African nation, competing for influence in a power vacuum caused by the toppling of former leader Mohamed Siad Barre, whose government had collapsed the year before in a rebellion – leading to civil war and a humanitarian crisis.

On Friday, the 15-member Security Council unanimously passed two British-drafted resolutions. The first removed the final restrictions from the 1992 arms embargo, while the other imposed a similar arms ban on the al Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabaab.

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The resolution states “for the avoidance of doubt, that there is no arms embargo on the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia.” However, the UN also expressed its concern about the efficacy of Somali ammunition storage facilities, and called upon the international community to assist the country in the construction and refurbishment of weapons depots.

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“The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats,” Somalia’s UN envoy, Abukar Dahir Osman, said according to Reuters on Friday. “It also allows us to bolster the capacity of the Somali security forces by accessing lethal arms and equipment to adequately safeguard our citizens and our nation.”

The Security Council had first begun removing some of the arms restrictions on Somalia’s security forces in 2013 in response to requests from Somalia’s government to enable it to enhance its own security measures in the face of domestic threats.

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The Sunni Islamist group al-Shabaab has been involved in an insurgency against the Somali government since 2006, seeking to gain power and impose rule based on its interpretation of Sharia law. The group has killed tens of thousands of people in the years since then.

Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, said late last month that the country had one year to fully eradicate al-Shabaab ahead of the December 2024 deadline for the planned withdrawal of 3,000 African Union peacekeepers – after which the Somali government will assume control of its own security responsibilities.

December 02, 2023 at 05:25PM
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