23 September 2017

Somalia: Govt Seeks Easing of Arms Embargo in Effort to Defeat Al-Shabab

Photo: Abdi Hajji Hussein/RNW
Children being transported to these camps (file photo).

The Somali government has repeated its plea for world leaders to lift an international arms embargo, as the aid-dependent Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle with security threats from al-Shabab terrorist group.

Delivering his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire praised his country's political and security development with the help of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.

"In Somalia, we have made significant strides, in which we have weakened the capability of al-Shabab," Khaire said.

The prime minister said his country needs a longstanding weapons embargo fully lifted so the national army can obtain heavy weapons to defeat al-Shabab, an Islamist militant group affiliated to al-Qaida. Al-Shabab is behind the suicide bombings and attacks on hotels and restaurants as well as military bases for African Union troops and the Somali National Army.

"To ensure the sustainability of such gains, we focused on strengthening the military capability of our national security forces, however, the arms embargo imposed against Somalia is a severe limitation towards this objective," Khaire told the U.N. assembly.

He said his government is prepared to work with the world body and its partners toward "a roadmap" on lifting the arms embargo.

Limit influence of terror groups

Khaire urged global leaders to "spare no effort" to neutralize the growth and influence of international terrorist groups.

The prime minister also said his country needs debt relief to improve initiatives for gender empowerment, respect for human rights and education. Such a move will help Somalia recover after living without a properly functioning central government for more than a quarter century.

In his address to the U.N. body, Khaire also underscored the need to ensure continuous and predictable funding for the AMISOM, which is supporting his country by helping to keep al-Shabab militants at bay.

Among the international issues Khaire raised in his speech was mitigating the impact of global climate change and the need for reforms at the United Nations.

The Somali government appeal for the lifting of its arms embargo comes nearly two weeks after the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in the country, known as UNSOM, called for practical support and political encouragement to the Somali leadership.

Briefing the U.N. Security Council Sept. 13, Michael Keating, the special representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Somalia, said Mogadishu was safer, but the larger security situation was volatile because al-Shabab terrorist groups remain a potent threat.

Somalia came under the U.N. arms embargo shortly after the nation plunged into civil war in 1992. The aim was to cut the flow of weapons to feuding clan warlords, who a year earlier had ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

In 2013, the U.N. Security Council partially lifted the embargo for one year, allowing the weak Somali government, endangered by armed extremists, to buy light weapons to strengthen its security forces and assert its control beyond Mogadishu.

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