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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has approved the lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia’s government and its security forces, marking the end to 31 years of restrictions on weapon shipments to the Horn of Africa nation. On December 1st 2023, the council passed two resolutions, one removing the complete arms embargo on Somalia and another reapplying an arms embargo on Al Shabaab militants with ties to Al Qaeda.
While the decision aims to enhance the Somali government’s capacity to combat the Islamist insurgency, restore stability, and address security concerns in a country plagued by civil war and chaos since 1991, the UNSC expressed worry about inadequate safe ammunition storage in Somalia, urging other nations to assist the Somali government in constructing, renovating, and utilizing secure ammunition depots across the country.
Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud welcomed the move, emphasizing its potential to modernize the country’s armed forces and equip them to counter threats from Al Shabaab and other adversaries. The Somalian government sees the lifting of the arms embargo as a testament to international collaboration for lasting peace, highlighting its commitment to working with the global community for a safer future.
Despite ongoing challenges, Somalia has relied on the support of African Union forces, the United States, Turkey, and other Western powers to address security threats posed by Al Shabaab and other militant groups. The recent lifting of the arms embargo reflects confidence in the Somali government’s progress and commitment to restoring peace and stability. Additionally, Somalia has taken steps toward self-reliance in security, with soldiers undergoing training in allied countries, including Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
However, some analysts caution that challenges remain in ensuring proper arms management and accountability, suggesting that the lifting of the embargo could contribute to weapon proliferation in the region. They also underscore the need for improvements in governance, human rights, and reconciliation efforts by the Somali government, emphasizing ongoing international support for the country’s political and security transition.
The Republic of Turkey has played a significant role in reconstituting the Somali National Army (SNA) by providing training, equipment, and military capabilities. The establishment of the “TURKSOM” training facility in Mogadishu and the delivery of Turkish-made weapons, including the MPT-76 battle rifle and Kirpi armored vehicles, signify Turkey’s commitment to strengthening the SNA and supporting Somalia’s security efforts.
Lifting of the arms embargo is a vote of confidence in the government of Somalia, which struggled for decades to maintain peace and security. It also comes a head of a planned drawdown and a scheduled withdrawal of African Union-led security forces which have been present in Somalia since 2007. This drawdown is supposed to be completed by December 2024.