By T. Roble
Do not expect the arms embargo to be lifted if you’re not willing to cooperate with the UN Panel of Experts, the UN has told Somalia.
Addressing the UN Security Council Wednesday, acting US Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Jonathan Cohen said Somalia was mistaken for thinking it could have the decades’ old arms import restrictions lifted even without committing to the embargo rules.
“On the arms embargo, we have encouraged Somalia to engage productively with the Panel of Experts, and will continue to do so,” Cohen said. “Somalia appears to believe that the Security Council will eventually lift the sanctions despite a lack of engagement with the panel.”
The US diplomat added Somalia should not expect his country’s support to lift the embargo if ‘does nothing to address the problems the sanction regime was designed to address and indeed undermines the actions of the Security Council’.
Cohen’s remarks seem to affirm concerns raised by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea which noted Somalia had failed to cooperate with the Group and that its reporting on the arms imports and use in the country failed standards set by the sanctions rules.
The Group said in its final report 2018 before it was replaced by a Panel of Experts that on several instances, Somali authorities failed to meet the sanctions rules on areas such as record keeping on arms imported, those distributed and the manner in which they were distributed.
It cited instances in which it was denied access to armouries in the country contrary to sanctions rules.
“A total of 21 containers of RPG-7 rounds from the consignment of ammunition of May 2018 were transferred to Villa Somalia. Despite requests, the Monitoring Group was not able to visit other armouries at Villa Somalia and the National Intelligence and Security Agency headquarters in Mogadishu,” the report read in part.
The Group also complained of not been allowed to take pictures of weapons at the Halane Armoury in Mogadishu. Approximately 20,000 weapons and 75 million rounds of ammunition, including an estimated 70,000 RPG-7 rounds were received by Somalia since partial lifting of the arms embargo in 2013, the report noted but there is ‘a significant disparity between the number of weapons officially received and the number of weapons distributed to the Somali National Army’.
In building its case of non-cooperation, the Group said the Office of National Security Adviser had made it difficult for the Group to access information from the government.
“The Group was instructed by the Office that all communications with the Federal Government be made via the Permanent Mission in New York, creating a significant impediment to day-to-day engagement,” the report said.
As a key decision maker in the UN Security Council which determines lifting of the sanctions, the US’ remarks could further delay attempts by Somalia to have the sanctions which has been in force since 1992 lifted. Somalia has indicated severally that its war against extremist elements in the group had stifled by the arms sanctions.