What's In Blue

Posted Tue 4 Mar 2014

Resolution Extending Partial Lifting of the Somalia Arms Embargo

Tomorrow, Wednesday 5 March, the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution re-authorising a partial lifting of the arms embargo on Somalia. The draft resolution, which was put into blue on Friday (28 February), extends until 25 October an exemption from the general arms embargo for the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) that had been initially authorised for one year with resolution 2093 on 6 March 2013. (The partial lifting was requested by the FGS and strongly supported by the US, with other Council members aligning despite some having strong concerns regarding state capacity in weapons management). Small arms, ammunition and other military equipment as well as advice, assistance and training intended for the FGS are included in the extension of the arms embargo suspension, while multiple types of heavy weaponry, as specified in the annex to resolution 2111, remain fully sanctioned.

Although there were no fundamental disagreements over the draft text during the two rounds of negotiations held on 25-26 February, they took place within a broader context of a 6 February leaked mid-term report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) that was contentious. (The SEMG assists the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee.) On 13 February, Reuters published an article containing detailed information from the report, including SEMG concerns regarding “high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution”. In particular, the report apparently claims that weapons have been illegally diverted for two main reasons – clan allegiance and war profiteering – leading to weapons ending up in Al-Shabaab’s hands. The SEMG recommended either reinstating a comprehensive arms embargo on Somalia or significantly tightening the regulatory provisions applying to the FGS. In stark contrast, in its final report on the arms embargo submitted on 6 February to the 751/1907 Sanctions Committee, the FGS recommended a loosening of the arms embargo, enabling the import of heavy weaponry. More recently, in a letter transmitted to Council members on 25 February, the FGS disputed several points made within the SEMG mid-term report.

Essentially, the draft resolution renews suspension of the arms embargo for the FGS as initially authorised with resolution 2093 and further clarified with resolution 2111. However, there is also new language in three important areas that are worth noting. First, the draft resolution imposes more specific and stringent reporting requirements on the FGS, requiring considerable detail for Committee notifications of upcoming arms transfers, the delivery of arms shipments and the distribution of imported arms. Second, the draft resolution addresses capacity building by acknowledging the request by the FGS for support with weapons management and requesting the Secretary-General to provide options and recommendations for technical assistance. Third, in a preambular paragraph, there is language regarding the potential consequences for a lack of thorough compliance by the FGS (i.e. re-imposition of a comprehensive arms embargo).

However, with respect to the overall position taken toward the FGS, the draft resolution in blue contains softer language than the draft initially proposed by the UK, the penholder on Somalia. During negotiations, at least one Council member continually stressed that the main problem facing the FGS is a lack of state capacity (rather than arms diversion through clan allegiances and war profiteering as suggested by the SEMG’s report). Another Council member, echoing this theme, requested the inclusion of a preambular paragraph “welcoming” the measures taken thus far by the FGS and “looking forward” to steps being taken to improve weapons management further. There were apparently no objections among other members even though the paragraph seems to conflict with the substance and tone of other preambular paragraphs where the Council highlights: a lack of FGS compliance, continued violations of the arms embargo, unmet FGS requirements within resolutions 2093 and 2111, and the diversion of arms and ammunition, including to Al-Shabaab.

During negotiations, one Council member voiced reservations regarding the operative paragraph specifying the content of notifications to the Committee made in advance of an arms shipment. In particular, it objected to the degree of specificity required on the grounds that it could have negative implications for the personal security of individual commanders of the Somalia National Security Forces. A compromise was reached through removing the name of the unit’s commander as a reporting requirement.

Moving forward, in terms of the Council and the 751/1907 Somalia and Eritrea Sanctions Committee, the draft resolution establishes the following timeline:

  • requests the Secretary-General to provide options and recommendations for UN technical assistance to the FGS within 30 days;
  • requests the FGS to report to the Council by 13 June and then again by 13 September; and
  • determines 25 October to be the expiration date for the partial suspension of the arms embargo.

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