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Regional leaders back Somalia's push to lift UN arms embargo

Thursday February 2, 2023


WAR ON TERRORISM: Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud hosts the Somalia Frontline States Summit attended by President William Ruto (Kenya) Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ethiopia) and Djibouti President Ismail Omer Guelleh in Mogadishu on Wednesday, February 1, 2023

The summit of heads of state and government of Somalia’s neighbouring countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have backed Mogadishu’s bid to completely lift the arms embargo by the end of this year.

The summit, which was held in Mogadishu on Wednesday and convened in the wake of the ongoing sustained war by Somali Security Forces, welcomed Somalia’s government request to obtain lethal and non-lethal support in war against al Shabaab.

This, the leaders said, is to ensure the newly-generated Somalia National Army units are properly equipped and to enhance the firepower capabilities of the operational units.

The meeting was attended Djibouti’s President Ismail Omer Guelleh, Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and Kenya’s President William Ruto under the chairmanship of Somalia’s Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.

President Ruto was accompanied by Defence Cabinet Secretary Aden Duale, Chief of Defence Forces General Robert Kibochi and State House Deputy Chief of Staff Josphat Nanok.

The Somalia Frontline States Summit  agreed to make the final push for joint operations in areas under al-Shabaab to facilitate the drawdown of The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia troops and the gradual handover of security responsibilities to the Somali security forces.

ATMIS is the successor of the African Union Mission to Somalia  and its mandate ends in 2024.

To attain this, the regional leaders emphasised on the urgency to jointly plan a decisive operational strategy against the terror group and acknowledges the need to mobilise regional support for timely, decisive operations.

President Ruto said the war against terrorism in the Horn of Africa calls for a collective effort.

He said the region must adopt a common strategy for combating terrorism and associated criminality, noting that through common endeavour, leaders have the power to rebuild stable societies and secure the people’s well-being.

“We must dismantle terror networks and financial support infrastructure; this must be complemented by countering radicalisation and the propagation of extremism,” the President said.

On his part, President Mohamud said Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have been integral to Somalia's counterterrorism efforts.

"This summit reaffirms our resolve to rid our region of terrorism permanently," he said. 

In November last year, the United Nations Security Council extended sanction on Somalia’s arms embargo.

“Effective weapons and ammunition management will reduce the ability of al Shabaab and other actors intent on undermining peace and security in Somalia and the region to obtain weapons and ammunition, and reduce the threat to peace and security posed by terrorists, in Somalia and neighbouring states,” UNSC said. 

The extension was approved by a vote of 11-0, with Russia, China, Gabon and Ghana abstaining. This was amidst protestations by Somalia and the African Union.

The extension comprised a ban on the sale or transfer of key components of improvised explosive devices that al Shabaab has used and a ban on the import and export of Somali charcoal that was a key moneymaker.

Others include travel bans and asset freezes on individuals threatening peace and associated with al Shabaab, including by financing or facilitating its activities. The ban was initially imposed in 1992, and is the longest UN sanctions regime.

In his reaction, Somalia’s Permanent Representative at the UN Abukar Osman said he was deeply dissatisfied, warning that the embargo was hindering efforts to rebuild the country’s security forces to counter terrorism.

In the Mogadishu meeting, a joint operations mechanism was agreed on to coordinate the operations to defeat the al Qaeda-linked terror group.

In addition, the leaders called for support from the international partners for Somalia’s stabilisation efforts in the newly liberated areas to facilitate the federal government to enhance its service delivery and extend its authority.

They further called for a joint border security mechanism to eliminate cross-border terrorism activities and ensures legal passage of trade and movement.

Even so, al Shabaab demonstrated its resilience with and an attempt to disrupt the military chiefs’ meeting that preceded the summit.

According to journalists based in Mogadishu, up to four mortar attacks were launched as a military meetings between Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti Military chiefs went on. 

Roads in the capital were also closed for security reasons. 


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