Somalia has been under an arms embargo since 1992 and was initially imposed as a response to the civil war and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country at the time.
Following the collapse of the central government, the conflict in Somalia escalated, resulting in widespread violence and mass displacement. The primary objective of the arms embargo was to curtail the flow of weapons into Somalia and prevent further exacerbation of the conflict. There was unfettered access and supply of weapons to various armed groups, warlords, and militia at the time and the decision by the United Nations was part of the international efforts to de-escalate the conflict and create an environment conducive to peace and stability.
The lifting of the arms embargo in Somalia on 01/12/2023 marks a significant milestone in the country’s journey towards stability and physical security for its citizens. The United Nations Security Council, through resolution 733, imposed the arms embargo on Somalia in 1992 making it the longest-ever imposed sanction on a sovereign nation. While the embargo served a clear purpose at that time, the lifting of the embargo now reflects the concrete progress Somalia has made in its efforts to rebuild and establish a functioning government. It is equivalent to reclaiming our sovereignty and status among the community of nations and states.
Following extensive lobbying and engagements, the Somali Government led by H.E Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the Security Council modified the restrictions and procedures related to arms supplies to the Somali Government in March 2013 in a new arrangement that was then referred to as a “partial arms embargo”. Ten years later, with the unwavering commitment to achieve full lifting of the arms embargo and through government-wide efforts, we have witnessed the fruits of our labour under the leadership of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
The lifting of the arms embargo is a major milestone for Somalia as it signifies the international community’s growing confidence in the country’s ability to maintain peace and security.
The ongoing fight against Al Shabaab and the lifting of the arms embargo will have a great impact in defeating one of the most brutal and organised terror organizations in the world.
Over the years, Somalia has made significant strides in its state-building process, including the establishment of a federal government, the formation of regional administrations, and the gradual improvement of security conditions in many parts of the country. This progress demonstrates the Somali government’s commitment to governance and security, which has been acknowledged by the international community as a positive step forward.
In recent years, there have been efforts to modify the arms embargo in Somalia to better reflect the changing context and needs. The UNSC has adopted several resolutions allowing exceptions to the embargo for Somali Security Forces and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS). These exceptions aimed to support the government’s efforts in countering extremist groups and stabilizing the country.
The Federal Government of Somalia takes pride in the notable strides it has made concerning the management of weapons and ammunition. Following the adoption of Resolution 2662 last year which was a turning point and a defining moment for Somalia, the Federal Government of Somalia was entitled to a progressive lifting of the arms embargo procedures in light of progress made against set benchmarks. The benchmarks and indicators established by the UN Sanctions Committee were not simply boxes to be ticked but significant improvement had to be demonstrated to the UN assessment team. This symbolised the essence of our national and regional security commitment. We are proud to highlight the following achievements among others that we managed to accomplish:
- Transparent and detailed record-keeping systems have been put into place to track the movement and deployment of weapons.
- Somali Security Forces’ (SSF) weapons have been registered and digitised, enabling swift tracking, accountability, and monitoring, marking a pivotal step in modern weapon management.
- Solid progress has been made in regulating the usage and possession of weapons and ammunition by both the government and private citizens through the adoption of the necessary legislations and procedures, and potentially including the firearms bill which is in parliament.
- Standardised methods for the storage of arms and ammunition have been implemented, with inventory checks being conducted at regular intervals.
- Somali Security Forces Personnel have undergone extensive and regular training on proper weapon handling, ensuring the safety of our communities.
The lifting of the arms embargo will empower the Somali government to build and strengthen its security forces, which is essential for maintaining stability and combating extremist groups. With the ability to acquire necessary arms and weapons, Somali security forces can better defend against threats to the country’s peace and security, including terrorism and insurgency. This increased capacity will not only help protect Somali citizens but also contribute to regional stability by preventing the spillover of insecurity and violence across borders.
Moreover, the lifting of the arms embargo is a symbolic move that recognizes the progress Somalia has made in overcoming its turbulent past. It sends a message of trust and support to the Somali people, affirming their efforts to rebuild their country and re-establish a functional state. This vote of confidence can help to bolster national pride and confidence in the future of Somalia, encouraging further investment in the country’s development and creating a more positive outlook for the Somali people.
The lifting of the arms embargo also presents an opportunity for the international community to further engage with Somalia in promoting stability, development, and good governance. By lifting the embargo, the international community have demonstrated its commitment to supporting Somalia in its efforts to build a secure and prosperous future. This will open doors for increased investment, and technical support, which are crucial for addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting sustainable development in Somalia.
The lifting of the arms embargo was a landmark move that reflects the progress Somalia has made in its state-building and security efforts and signals the international community’s confidence in the Somali government’s commitment to peace and progress. However, we are cognizant that the lifting of the arms embargo also comes with greater responsibilities. The Somali government and relevant authorities will have to ensure that the arms procured are used for legitimate security purposes and in accordance with the Somali laws and international standards. There must be transparent and accountable mechanisms in place to regulate the acquisition, storage, and use of these weapons, as well as to prevent them from falling into unlawful recipients. Additionally, efforts to disarm and demobilize unauthorized armed groups and individuals must continue to prevent the proliferation of weapons and to consolidate the authority of the state.
The lifting of the arms embargo represents trust and confidence in Somalia’s progress and commitment. As a nation, we understand the gravity of this responsibility and remain dedicated to ensuring that the lessons of the past guide our future. In this regard, the Federal Government of Somalia has established a Central Monitoring Department (CMD) to provide coordination, oversight, and monitoring of the delivery, marking, circulation and audit of weapons and ammunition across Somalia with support and advice from MemberStates and our regional and international friends.
Furthermore, it will be incumbent upon the Somali government to put in place strong mechanisms for disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration to prevent the misuse of weapons and promote long-term stability. The Somali Government is committed to continue strengthening the weapons and ammunition systems and building on the gains made going forward.
With the right measures in place and building on the gains made, I believe the lifting of the arms embargo will contribute to consolidating peace, building resilience, and fostering a brighter future for the Somali people.