UN set to ease Somalia arms embargo
28 February 2013, 12:47
New York - The UN Security Council is set to ease a two
decade old arms embargo against Somalia to help the new government in its
battle against Islamist militants, diplomats said on Wednesday.
The United States has been supporting a campaign by the
Somali government for the embargo to be ended, while Britain and France have
been more reluctant to let more arms into a country already awash with guns,
The measure is likely to be part of a council resolution
renewing the mandate of the African Union military force in Somalia which
should be passed on Wednesday next week.
The Security Council imposed a total arms embargo in 1992 as
feuding warlords battled for control of the country after ousting dictator
Mohamed Siad Barre.
A UN diplomat said Britain is drafting the resolution which
set out the new measures, but that negotiations are still being held.
The council could decide to ease the embargo against
government purchases of arms for a year but exclude certain types of weaponry
such as air defence systems, the diplomat said.
"There is a good
argument for sending a strong signal that the new government is increasingly
exercising sovereignty, and on the other hand continuing concerns about
security," the diplomat said.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who took office last year,
but is still kept in power mainly by the 17 000 strong African Union Mission in
Somalia (Amisom), toured western capitals last month to demand an end to the
"What the Somali government partly wants is a political
signal that they are now a sovereign government and we're supporting them,
rather than a trusteeship," said another UN diplomat. "They say the
bad guys are getting weapons and the good guys are not."
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has also given
conditional support to lifting the embargo.
"Enhanced efforts are ... urgently needed to develop
the Somali National Security Forces," Ban said in a recent report to the
Security Council in which he said it "may wish to consider the repeated
request by the government for lifting the arms embargo."
Ban warned that while Shabaab Islamist militants have
suffered major losses "these spoilers will seize any opportunity to
reverse the gains."
Amisom's current UN mandate ends on March 7. The Security
Council is currently scheduled to meet the day before to vote a resolution on
the force and setting up a UN political office in Mogadishu.