AU troops in Somalia 'selling arms'

Somali, Ethiopian and Ugandan forces face UN accusation as deadly clashes continue.

    Aweys says UN-sponsored talks are doomed to fail unless Ethiopian troops pull out from Somalia [EPA]
    Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said UN-sponsored peace talks, which opened in the capital Djibouti last week, were doomed to fail unless Ethiopia first withdrew all its forces.

    "The UN is not impartial. We don't want to pursue this [peace] process," he said.

    "Our plan is to continue the struggle. It is important to expel the enemy from all areas.

    "We don't want a fight to the death. We don't want to kill all the Ethiopian soldiers. We want to save them. We want them to leave."

    Aweys' fighters, however, may have reasons to be grateful to the very Ethiopian soldiers they want to expel.
    Officials involved
    The UN monitoring group said sales of weapons to Islamic courts fighters were made by "prominent officials of the security sectors of government, Ethiopian officers and Ugandan officers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom)".
    The experts said many of the arms that were sold by peacekeepers came from Somalia's military.

    The UN panel said it was alarmed at 'continued
    militarisation' of armed groups [EPA]

    Amisom has just over 2,500 Ugandan and Burundian troops in Somalia but the deployment falls short of the 8,000 pledged by the pan-African body.

    "According to arms traders, the biggest supplier of ammunition to the market are Ethiopian and transitional federal government commanders, who divert boxes officially declared 'used during combat'," the report said.

    The UN monitoring group accused neighbouring Ethiopia, Yemen and Eritrea of continuously violating the embargo by sending weapons to hostile factions within Somalia.

    Somalia's breakaway northern regions of Puntland and Somaliland have been other entry points for weapons.

    'Covert routes'

    Describing the flow of weapons, the UN report said "the routes are more covert, and the weapons reach Somalia either by a large number of small vessels, or through remote locations along the land borders.

    "The Somali police force no longer differs from other actors in the armed conflict, despite the fact that many of its members have received training in accordance to international standards."

    The UN monitors further said that the Somali government's budget, heavily supported by international donors, lacks even the most minimal standards of transparency.

    "Some donors expressed discontent that some of the funding provided, despite being marked for civilian and peace-building activities, may have been used for military activities and purchase of military materials," the report said.

    Arms embargo

    The UN panel has been in Somalia reviewing a 1992 arms embargo placed on the Horn of African country after fighting broke out following the removal of Mohammed Siad Barre, Somalia's head of state from 1969 to 1991.

    Since 1992, Somali factions have been engaged in low-level conflict, preventing the effective monitoring of the UN arms embargo.

    The Security Council has rejected several pleas by Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the Somali president, to ease the arms ban.

    Somali troops, their Ethiopian allies and AU peacekeepers have been routinely targeted by fighters over the past year, worsening security and choking humanitarian operations in the country.

    Joint Somali-Ethiopia forces removed the Islamic Courts' Union from power in southern and central Somalia early last year after six months in rule during which they were accused of links to extremist groups.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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