The continuing reluctance by the federal government of Somalia to co-operate with UN investigators may further delay the lifting of an arms embargo that was imposed on the country to rein in terrorism.
In the latest report by the UN Panel of Experts, Somalia’s poor record keeping, lateness in complying with other conditions as well as vague structure of the security agencies are contributing to the country’s prolonged stay on the sanctions list.
The team of experts is co-ordinated by Jay Bahadur, and has Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, an expert on humanitarian affairs; Nazanine Moshiri and Richard Zabot who are both specialists in arms analysis, Brian O’Sullivan who focuses on armed groups and natural resources and Matthew Rosbottom, a finance expert.
The panel filed suggestions to the UN Security Council Committee on Sanctions on Somalia, currently chaired by Belgium, suggesting that shipment of commercial explosives into Somalia should be included on the sanction list and transportation subject to notification of the Committee of UNSC.
It also wanted each military equipment type specified on whether it should require prior permission from the Council to be imported in Somalia, and a review on the appropriateness of charcoal trade ban in controlling al-Shabaab activity.
And although the panel, which used to be known as the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, says Somalia has made significant progress, which persuaded the UN Security Council to partially lift the embargo last year, the remaining portions have been delayed.
The panel said the Federal Government of Somalia has improved on reporting on the arms being brought in from outside, the kind of military training support it has received from partners as well as an ongoing programme to account for the number of military personnel, but the “record-keeping with respect to distribution of materiel to field units remains deficient....”
“The panel noted an improvement in some aspects of the Federal Government’s compliance with the terms of the partial lifting of the arms embargo during the reporting period. However, the Federal Government’s reporting to the Committee on the structure and composition of its security forces...has been inconsistent and incomplete,” the report further says.
But it appears Somali leaders were also reluctant to share information, with the panel indicating it had been frustrated and were denied requests to access key storage facilities by Mogadishu, making it difficult to determine whether the government was complying with the arms embargo or not.
The embargo was first imposed in 1992 through Resolution 733, and updated through various resolutions. It barred Somalia from purchasing or importing certain military weapons and equipment, collectively known as materiel.
They include surface-air-missiles and certain guns. Until 2013, Somalia had also been barred from receiving military training or equipment from outside entities unless the Committee on Sanctions on Somalia expressly permitted.
Currently, the UN allows exemptions if the supply or advice is to support the Somalia National Army’s capabilities.
For the past two years, the Somali government had been implementing what it called the biometric registration of the military personnel, meant to help control weapon usage and prevent turncoats who may double up as al-Shabaab agents.
But in one assessment of the listed soldiers, the panel says it discovered discrepancies between listed numbers and those actually captured in the biometric register.
One leakage identified in the security management in Somalia was weapons rightfully imported into the country by the government were later found in the hands of Shabaabs or black market merchants.
In one incident, 38 weapons found in the possession of underground dealers in Mogadishu and Baidoa, suggesting lower-ranked and poorly paid soldiers may have sold them off, assured they won’t be asked to account for them.
When al-Shabaab launched an attack on Dusit2 Hotel in Nairobi on January 15, investigators found a weapon with serial numbers that indicated a “likelihood that the rifle was part of a consignment of 3,500 Type 56-2 rifles purchased by the Federal Government of Somalia from the Government of Ethiopia in 2013 immediately following the partial lifting of the arms embargo.
In February 2018, Kenya police had also arrested Shabaab suspects who had possession of four Type 56-2 rifles that had also formed part of the 2013 consignment.
The possibility may have been that the militants seized weapons after attacking known military bases or were sold to them by al-Shabaab sympathisers within the military.
The Panel says it investigated various records that showed “systematic supply of weapons and ammunition” from the Metals and Engineering Corporation, owned by the Ethiopian government. And because Addis Ababa did not provide its records on how it ensured only legal entities received the weapons, it was possible to land in wrong hands.