UN Security Council Lifts Decades-Old Arms Embargo on Somalia Government

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The UNSC voted to remove the final restrictions on weapons deliveries to Somalia’s government forces, more than 30 years after an arms embargo was first imposed on the country.

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Friday to lift an arms embargo on Somalia's government and its security forces, ending 31 years of restrictions that had prevented the country from upgrading its military with freely purchased new weaponry.

The council placed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 to disrupt the flow of weapons to warring warlords who had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged the Horn of Africa country into civil war.

Al-Shabaab, an Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda, has been waging a brutal insurgency against the Somali government since 2006 to try to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic Sharia law.

The militants had seized control of southern and central parts of Somalia before Ethiopian, Kenyan, and African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops undertook a counter-offensive in 2011, supported by the United States.

The UNSC partially lifted the ban for a year in 2013, allowing the Somali government to buy light arms to help in its fight against Islamist militants

On Friday, the 15-member body adopted two British-drafted resolutions: to remove the full arms embargo on Somalia and to re-impose an arms embargo on al-Shabaab militants.

The resolution lifting the arms embargo spells out “for the avoidance of doubt, that there is no arms embargo on the Government of the Federal Republic of Somalia.”

It also expressed concern about the number of safe ammunition storage facilities in Somalia, and encouraged the construction, refurbishment, and use of safe ammunition depots across Somalia. It urged other countries as well to help Somalia in its fight against terrorism.

“The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats,” said Somalia’s UN Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman. “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.”

Somalia’s government had long asked for the arms embargo to be removed so it could beef up its forces to take on the militants. The lifting of the embargo has formed President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s campaign since he took power last May.

Mohamud said last week that Somalia has one year to expel al-Shabaab, with the deadline for remaining African Union peacekeepers to leave looming in December 2024.

France was the only member to abstain when voting on the resolution to reimpose restrictions on arms trade or supplies to al-Shabaab militants, saying the resolution lacked references to the territorial disputes between Djibouti and Eritrea.