Somali officials divert arms to al-Qaeda-linked groups, UN says
February 14, 2014 Leave a comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A confidential report by United Nations monitoring experts warns that senior members of Somalia’s federal government are systematically diverting weapons to al-Qaeda-linked groups operating in the country. In 1992, the United Nations Security Council imposed a weapons embargo on Somalia, in an effort to prevent weapons from reaching a multitude of warring tribes that had plunged the country into a bloody civil war. Last March, however, the Council agreed to ease the embargo following persistent appeals by the Federal Government of Somalia. The latter argued that the two decades-long arms embargo prevented it from adequately defending itself and its population from al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked militant group that controls large swathes of the Somali countryside. The easing of the embargo, which was supported by the United States, has allowed the government in Mogadishu to import much-needed military hardware such as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic assault rifles. But a recent report from the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group has found that a significant portion of the advanced weaponry imported by Somalia following the relaxation of the embargo rules is ending up in the hands of paramilitary groups, including al-Shabaab. The confidential 14-page report, which has been seen by Reuters, was authored by a team of independent experts who are tasked with evaluating the extent to which the government of Somalia complies with weapons sanctions. The report concludes that the UN should restore the full weapons embargo in order to prevent advanced weaponry from falling into the arms of al-Shabaab. The experts go on to suggest that the importation of weapons into the country has been compromised by a series of “high-level and systematic abuses”, which affect the “current management of weapons and ammunition stockpiles” in Somalia. The government’s weapons regime has been effectively “captured by clan and sub-clan politics”, says the report, and notes that entire parts of shipments consisting of grenades, ammunition, rocket launchers and assault rifles have ended up in “private arms markets” that have sprung up throughout Somalia. A large portion of these stolen weapons ends up under the control of al-Shabaab, which is something that the government in Mogadishu is desperate to conceal, says the report.