Arms reach Somali warlords despite UN sanctions

Report
from Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
Published on 22 May 2008 View Original
By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, May 22 (Reuters) - Despite a U.N. arms embargo, arms shipments to Somali militants have not stopped and Somalia's security situation is getting worse, South Africa's U.N. envoy told the Security Council on Thursday.

South African Ambassador to the United Nations Dumisani Kumalo, chairman of the U.N. Security Council's Somalia sanctions committee, also reported to the 15-nation body that corruption in the lawless Horn of Africa country was rampant.

Kumalo said the committee had received worrying reports that 'elements' of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, and Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) were involved in arms trafficking activities, which have the potential to undermine the peace process.

Some Ethiopians are also creating problems, he said.

'Eighty percent of ammunition available at the Somali arms markets was supplied by TFG and Ethiopian troops,' Kumalo said in the written text of his remarks to the Security Council.

He said his committee viewed the 'continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo' on Somalia, where warlords, Islamist insurgents and Ethiopian-backed Somali government forces clash almost daily.

The monitoring committee received details of some 25 military flights by Ethiopia into Somalia and knew that Ethiopian troops had brought military equipment into the country to arm 'friendly clans,' Kumalo said.

Arms and military hardware are mainly transported to Somalia by boat and airplane, but traffickers also use horses and donkeys, making shipments difficult to track, he said.

Kumalo said boats often came from Yemen 'with goods for general trade and with weapons, (and) ... arms shipments were reaching Somalia at points along the entire coast.'

'GREAT PROFITS'

Kumalo told the council the security situation in the northeastern region of Puntland was worsening and the conflict there expanding. He also said Somalia's 'business community was profiting as well from the general situation of lawlessness.'

'Somalia is affected by a war economy, with great profits made by military commanders, who therefore have little incentive to change the status quo,' he said.

The committee is also probing possible links between piracy and arms trafficking, as well as allegations that Somali port officials were actively supporting piracy, he said.

Kumalo said the Somalia sanctions committee backed the idea of independent investigations of Somalia's TFG, the Ethiopian government and AMISOM. He said 'only some elements in AMISOM and TFG' appeared to be responsible for such illegal activities, not the institutions themselves.

The committee is also exploring measures to strengthen the arms embargo.

Earlier this month the Security Council passed a resolution opening the door to a stronger U.N. presence in Somalia and the possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers there.

While all 15 council members agree the situation is dire, most remain reluctant to send U.N. peacekeepers to Somalia.

Talk of outside intervention is still colored by memories of a 1993 battle in which 18 U.S. troops and hundreds of Somali militiamen died. The incident inspired a book and a Hollywood movie -- 'Black Hawk Down' -- and marked the beginning of the end for a combined U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping force.

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