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Somalia runs weapons bazaar for clan leaders and warlords

Somali army

Somali army

(GIN) — Rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition purchased by Somali authorities are being secretly supplied to clan leaders and warlords including the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group in violation of a U.N. accord, a confidential U.N. report obtained by the Reuters news agency alleged.

Reports of the unofficial arms bazaar operating out of Somali warehouses confirms the worst fears of U.N. Security Council members, a minority of whom opposed lifting the arms embargo on Somalia, fearing it would permit the arming of militants in a country “already awash with weapons,” diplomats said.

“The progress achieved (in Somalia) does not justify so far the lifting of the arms embargo,” Ambassador Gert Rosenthal of Guatemala had argued at the time. Also opposed was Amnesty International, which called the idea premature and warned it could “expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Even the clan of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud appeared to be a beneficiary of the arms sales, the investigation found.

But the Somali government in Mogadishu, with the support of the U.S., prevailed and a British-drafted resolution that also renewed a 17,600-strong African Union peacekeeping force for a year was passed unanimously.

The discovery this week of heavy weapons-trading presents a security dilemma for the Africa Union’s peacekeeping force made up of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya and Ethiopia. Battling al-Shabab militants on several fronts, they now face weapons being used against them that were purchased by the government they are there to defend.

In the new report, the monitors describe difficulties they had in getting access to weapons and information about its growing arsenal. The government reportedly cancelled several inspections of armories that the monitors and UN officials had planned to undertake.

Further, parts of shipments of weapons from Uganda and Djibouti, including assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and ammunition, “could not be accounted for.” The report also mentioned discrepancies in accounts of what had happened to arms sent from Ethiopia.

“Given the gaps in information … it is impossible to quantify what the scale of diversion of weapons stocks has been,” the report said. “However, the monitoring group has obtained other pieces of qualitative evidence that point towards systematic abuses by the (Somali army).”

The Security Council imposed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 to cut the flow of weapons to feuding warlords, who a year earlier had ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged the country into civil war.

On Feb. 20, the Somali mission to the United Nations questioned the validity of the experts’ sources.

Rejecting the report, Somalia Military Chief Gen. Dahir Aden Elmi  Indhaqrshe, responded: “The U.N. Monitoring Group wants al-Shabab to be an endless project in order to gain funds from the world while they are struggling hard to make Somalia government weak and nonfunctional.”

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