Somalia: Lifting Arms Embargo On Somalia Could Be a Phenomenal Blunder

I might be alone on this journey but I still oppose the lifting of the arms embargo in Somalia. What the USA and other countries supporting it have done is like what Emperor Nero did to Rome. Setting Rome on fire and thinking that God had not seen the sins of the Emperor.

I am opposed. Lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia is likely to thrive the cartels of a long-lasting clandestine arms enterprise that has been operating underneath the veneer of the civil conflict to a fully-fledged cash cow for terrorists and dissidents in Somalia.

This is more likely to cause a cocktail of difficulties and proliferation of arms across Africa whose net resultant effect could stir more conflicts and insecurity across the Horn of Africa, bequeathing a bumper harvest for arms smugglers and make Africa a hotbed of terror.

Lest we forget, the collapse and disintegration of the State of Somalia has been intricately linked to the dynamic proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons in the aftermath of the decades-long-running civil conflict.

Lifting arms embargo on a country still on stilts of finding stability is a foolhardy decision and could prove fatal for the region.

Somalia is far from receiving a clean bill of health as far as security is concerned. Today Somalia and the Horn of Africa in extension is awash with arms fuelling violence and a war economy.

Its porous borders, weak governance, and dysfunctional national security apparatus present a major challenge for controlling the proliferation of arms across the region.

Somalia is a country still wallowing in a perpetual colossal conundrum of conflict and instability, lifting the embargo will be akin to leaving a child with a gun in total disregard of the eminent danger of shooting themselves in the foot.

In Somalia, International and regional efforts for arms control not least the Nairobi Declaration on the problems of the proliferation of illicit arms in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa has not made headway in terms of containment.

Candidly speaking, the problem in Somalia hasn’t had its lifetime panacea, and thus we cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend everything is pitcher perfect.

The prevalence of ungoverned spaces and resurgent violent non-state actors like Al-Shabaab remnants and marauding piracy within the Somalian state has opened up the safe breeding ground for the illicit arms trade.

The problem of fragile governance institutions, lack of security sector reform, absence of post-conflict reconstruction programmes by external donors to stem the tide of poverty and inability to totally annihilate Al-Shabaab will only make Somalia an incubator for hatching terror, anarchy and illegal arms in Africa.

Left with its porous borders, Somalia has become a doorway and a conduit for arms from Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia destined for the equally tumultuous neighboring Yemen. These arms always end up in other parts of Africa, where they become fodder for cyclical conflict.

In December 2021, US Naval forces intercepted a dhow in the Northern Arabian Sea. Believed to have been en route to Yemen, the dhow carried 1,400 assault rifles and over 200,000 rounds of ammunition. Is this what the embargo seeks to give the green light to? We have to reconsider.

Most outstandingly, the Yemeni angle is now a cause of concern for the region. Between December 2020 and August 2021 only, security field researchers and intelligence officers documented a total of 417 small arms and light weapons in Somalia in a survey of 13 different locations.

It has been further revealed that a big chunk of these arms were Type 56-1 rifles and were found in eight of the locations. The serial numbers of Type 56-1 rifles found in Somalia clustered around those documented in various maritime seizures, suggesting footprints towards a common source.

A good number from Iranian support consisted of deliveries of small arms and light weapons to Yemen, 24 carried out by sophisticated, transnational maritime trafficking networks.

Unbeknownst to many, frequent covert meetings and trans-shipments between dhows of Iranian, Yemeni and Somali origin most often have been used to disguise the provenance of weapon shipments to evade detection. In reality, this problem is bigger than imagined.

Today, I have no doubt whatsoever that these are the same weapons that have been used to export terrorism and conflict across Mozambique and other parts of Africa.

When you join back the dots, it all ends up at Somalia’s doorstep. This can lend insight into how lifting of the arms embargo could result into mushrooming of organized crime in Eastern and Southern Africa.

I, therefore, say and oppose the lifting of the arms embargo.

Looking at the available data and previous trends, it’s only noble that this decision is repealed to allow mechanisms that would restructure the security situation in Somalia to take precedence first. Otherwise, Africa may end up paying an exorbitant price.

If I am wrong time will tell.

Dr.David Matsanga

Passing by Waterloo

13.10.2022

London UK

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