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UN: Arms embargo on Somalia constantly broken

Herve Couturier

A 16-year arms embargo against Somalia has been constantly violated with weapons mainly coming from Yemen and financed by Eritrea, a UN report says.

A 16-year arms embargo against Somalia has been constantly violated with weapons mainly coming from Yemen and financed by Eritrea as well as Arab and Islamic donors, a United Nations report said on Friday.

“Most serviceable weapons and almost all ammunition currently available in the country have been delivered since 1992, in violation of the embargo,” the report from a UN monitoring group said.

“Commercial imports, mainly from Yemen, remain the most consistent source of arms, ammunition and military materiel to Somalia,” the group said.

Restrictions put into place in Yemen since June 2008 to limit arms sales have helped cut the flow of weapons to Somalia.

“Nevertheless, weapons from Yemen continue to feed Somali retail arms sales and the needs of armed opposition and criminal groups,” the UN report said.

This illegal trafficking is fuelling the bloody armed conflict in the Horn of Africa country, which has been wracked by a civil war since 1991, and is aiding rampant piracy off the Somali coast, the report added.

Earlier on Friday, the UN Security Council prolonged the monitoring group’s mandate for another year and reiterated “its intention to consider specific action to improve implementation of and compliance with” the embargo.

Independent experts have been mandated “to continue to investigate, in coordination with relevant international agencies, all activities, including in the financial, maritime and other sectors, which generate revenues used to commit arms-embargo violations”.

Somalia’s transitional government controls only of a small part of the country, and the UN Security Council slapped an arms embargo on the country in 1992 under resolution 733.

“Insurgent groups in Ethiopia also procure arms and ammunition from Yemen, which then transit Somalia in violation of the arms embargo,” the report said.

“Financing for arms-embargo violations by armed opposition groups derives from a variety of sources, including the government of Eritrea, private donors in the Arab and Islamic world, and organised fundraising activities among Somali diaspora groups.”

Criminal gangs are also adding to the lawlessness in the country and are “typically self-financing, employing the proceeds from piracy and kidnapping to procure arms, ammunition and equipment”.

“Some of these groups now rival or surpass established Somali authorities in terms of their military capabilities and resource bases,” the report added.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council adopted a landmark resolution authorising for the first time the use of land operations against Somali pirates in a bid to clamp down on audacious, well-armed gangs menacing vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

But the UN monitoring group warned that another source of the arms flooding into the impoverished nation came from outside forces seeking to support the transitional government.

“Although such contributions are intended to contribute to security and stabilisation in Somalia, and are eligible for exemption from the arms embargo, most are not authorised by the Security Council, and thus constitute violations.”

“As much as 80% of such support has been diverted to private purposes, the Somali arms market or opposition groups.”—AFP

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