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UN says arms for Somalia diverted to militias

Report says "systematic abuse" by officials after loosening of embargo has allowed diversion of weapons to armed groups.

Last updated: 15 Feb 2014 02:25
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The report says a key advisor to the president was involved in planning weapons deliveries to al-Shabab [AFP]

UN monitors say they have found evidence that arms shipments to the Somali government have been diverted to clan militias and in one case were destined for an al-Shabab rebel commander.

A confidential report by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group found "high level and systematic abuses in weapons management and distribution" by Somali authorities, the AFP news agency reported.

In February 2013, the UN Security Council voted to partially lift an arms embargo against Somalia, seeking to help the beleaguered government in its battle against al-Shabab fighters.

But the council imposed restrictions requiring notification of shipments, banned certain heavy weapons and mandated the Monitoring Group to watch how matters proceeded.

On February 6, the coordinator of the UN monitors wrote to the chairman of the Security Council committee overseeing the sanctions to present a report that raised serious concerns.

The report, which is not binding on UN members, recommended a reversal of the loosening of the embargo, to try and stop arms shipped to the Somali government falling into the wrong hands.

"However, an alternative recommendation to the committee would be to introduce, at the minimum, enhanced notification and reporting requirements, if not a partial tightening," it said.

Senior Somali officials have also, the report alleges, been implicated in the transfer of weapons meant for the national army to militias tied to the Abgaal and Habar Gedir clans.

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is a member of the Abgaal clan, and the report says the team found evidence tying a network of officials to arms shipments to the group's forces.

The group has "obtained documentary evidence corroborating information that a key advisory to the president, from his Abgaal sub-clan, has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to al-Shabab leader Sheikh Yusuf Isse 'Kabukatukade'."

'Gulf connection'

According to the report, a senior Somali government minister bought weapons from "a foreign government in the Gulf" and shipped them without notifying sanctions monitors.

This in itself constituted a breach of the embargo, the report said, adding: "Indeed, after delivery, some of the weapons were moved to private locations in Mogadishu. Investigations are ongoing."

The monitoring group said the Somali government denied them access to several arsenals, and in the ones they visited they found discrepancies between lists of delivered weapons and ammunition, and what was actually in the warehouses, the AP news agency reported.

The UN monitors said that they were able to obtain photographs showing rifles that were shipped for use by the Somali army on open sale in Mogadishu markets, with their serial numbers ground off.

The Security Council is expected to review the arms embargo next month, and could decide either to lift restrictions entirely, maintain the monitored sanctions regime or tighten it, AFP reported

Despite the support of a large African Union force, Somalia's government struggles to control its own territory and the al-Shabab fighters regularly launch devastating attacks despite recent defeats.

Since the arms embargo was made more supple last year, Somalia's allies Ethiopia and Djibouti have sent several large shipments of mainly infantry weapons to government forces.

Since the fall of Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been prey to a series of conflicts between clan, religious and criminal militias.

Mohamud's election in September 2012 has given rise to hope that the country may once again achieve stable government, and he has received strong support from the West and regional allies.

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