Global Policy Forum

UN Experts Report Flourishing Illegal Arms Trade

International Herald Tribune
May 23, 2008

UN experts investigating violations of an arms embargo against Somalia report that countries and private traders are supplying weapons and military equipment to warlords, militants and the business community, South Africa's U.N. ambassador said Thursday. Dumisani Kumalo, who chairs the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions, said the experts also reported that "elements" of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia and the country's transitional government were involved in illegal trafficking.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The warlords then turned on each other, sinking the poverty-stricken nation of 7 million people into chaos. The current weak transitional government, backed by Ethiopian troops, is struggling to quash a re-emerging Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians. Kumalo told the Security Council that the Monitoring Group on Somalia, which investigates violations of the 1992 arms embargo, "characterized the continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo" in its latest report."It noted that it had received details of 25 military flights by Ethiopia into Somalia, and that Ethiopian troops imported military equipment into Somalia also for the purpose of arming friendly clans in the fight against the insurgents and keeping the Ogaden National Liberation Front at Bay," he said. The front, founded in 1984, is fighting for independence for a large part of Ethiopia's Somali region, known as the Ogaden.

Kumalo said the UN experts confirmed that while aircraft and dhows, the traditional sailing vessels in the region, remained the most common way of transporting arms, other modes were also being used including horses and donkeys.

This is "making tracking of such deliveries problematic," he said.

The sanctions monitoring group also found that dhows from Yemen regularly arrive in Somaliland, the breakaway, self-declared republic in northern Somalia, with goods and weapons and that "arms shipments were reaching Somalia at points along the entire coast," Kumalo said.

His report to the closed council meeting was released by the United Nations. Kumalo said the Monitoring Group painted a grim picture of the security situation in Somalia.It reported that the conflict is expanding, that there is "increased militarization," that the government's security forces are fragmented, and that security in the semiautonomous Puntland region is worsening, he said."The monitoring group noted that both states and private traders were suppliers of arms and military equipment (and) that warlords, militants and the business community were among the recipients," Kumalo said. It also reported "that illegal transactions were facilitated by the provision of transport and protection, and the corruption of government officials by the recipients."The group reported that the government's lack of transparency and accountability facilitated the diversion of international aid "towards sanctionable activities, and that the business community was profiting as well from the general situation of lawlessness," he said.

Kumalo said the group concluded that "Somalia is affected by a war economy with great profits made by military commanders who therefore have little incentive to change the status quo."

In past reports, the UN monitors have said almost a dozen countries were supplying arms or cash to the warring parties in Somalia. They also reported that Eritrea secretly supplied "huge quantities of arms" to a Somali insurgent group with alleged ties to al-Qaida.

The UN experts are currently investigating the links between piracy, which is rampant off Somalia's coast, and arms trafficking as well as allegations that pirates received "active support" from officials of the transitional government in charge of the ports, Kumalo said. He told the council the sanctions committee supported a recommendation for independent investigations by Somalia's transitional government, Ethiopia's government, and the African Union force of illegal arms trafficking.

More Information on the UN Security Council
More Information on Somalia
More Information on Ethiopia and Eritrea


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