Chair of Somalia Sanctions Committee Stresses Need to Update Long-Standing Restrictions on Arms Imports, in Security Council Briefing

SC/13996
25 October 2019
8647th MEeting (PM)

Chair of Somalia Sanctions Committee Stresses Need to Update Long-Standing Restrictions on Arms Imports, in Security Council Briefing

Whereas long-standing restrictions on the importation of weapons have largely prevented their flow into the hands of Al-Shabaab — a group responsible for ongoing terror attacks across the Horn of Africa — those measures require updating to better reflect reality on the ground, the head of the Security Council’s Somalia Sanctions Committee said today.

Briefing the 15-member Council, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve (Belgium), Chair of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) concerning Somalia, outlined that body’s work from 27 June to 25 October.  Recalling that Committee members heard a briefing by the Deputy Director of Operations and Advocacy in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 3 October, he noted her conclusion that Somalia is on a positive trajectory with key achievements on the political, economic, humanitarian and security fronts.  She noted, however, that the country remains vulnerable to climatic shocks and escalating conflict, while inconsistent funding continues to challenge the delivery of humanitarian assistance, he recalled.  Describing as essential the humanitarian exemption to the Council’s freeze on assets — prescribed in resolution 2444 (2018) — he pointed out that humanitarian organizations have strengthened their systems for identifying and detecting risks of aid diversion.

Outlining a briefing on 15 October by the Panel of Experts on Somalia — mandated after the lifting of sanctions imposed on Eritrea, in resolution 2444 (2018) — he reported that the Panel’s Coordinator spotlighted the continuing threat that Al-Shabaab poses to Somalia and the broader region.  Indeed, there is now confirmation that Al-Shabaab is manufacturing home-made explosives, expanding its revenue base, and was once again responsible for the highest number of attacks against civilians in the region.  The Panel Coordinator, he added, encouraged Member States to apply targeted sanctions to deter destructive behaviour in Somalia — including by arms traffickers and charcoal dealers, terrorism financiers and political spoilers.

The Chair went on to warn that the ongoing stand-off between the Federal Government of Somalia and the federal member states has peace and security implications, explaining that the arms embargo imposed on Somalia has largely prevented entry into the country of heavier weapons that ultimately find their way into the hands of Al-Shabaab and other armed actors.  The embargo — first imposed in 1992 — must be streamlined, simplified and updated to better reflect the current realities of the counter-insurgency in Somalia, he emphasized.  He called for enhanced oversight of certain components and chemical precursors — including chemical explosives — that Al-Shabaab might use to construct improvised explosive devices.

Concerning the ban on Somalia’s import and export of charcoal, he said it is clear that Al-Shabaab no longer derives significant revenue from that trade.  He recalled that the Committee heard from the Head of the Global Maritime Crime Programme, also on 15 October, who outlined efforts to disrupt the charcoal trade into and out of Somalia.  That presentation focused on the complex environment in which terrorism and transnational organized crime exploit porous borders to finance their operations, he said, citing the strong links between Al-Shabaab and crime syndicates engaged in the smuggling of people, weapons, sugar, tobacco, bomb components and narcotics as well as precursor substances.

Following that briefing, several delegates expressed concern that the Government of Somalia has failed to cooperate with the Panel, sounding the alarm over the implications of that inaction for regional peace and security.

Jonathan Guy Allen (United Kingdom) said the sanctions were put in place to assist Somalia’s security, not harm it, and the Panel of Experts had a critical role in countering terrorism in the country.  Noting that his country’s Government is helping to build Somalia’s security capacity, he affirmed that the partial arms embargo remains essential for that purpose and for countering Al-Shabaab.  As always, the United Kingdom will work with Somalia’s Government in all endeavours, but it is unacceptable that it has not cooperated with the Panel over the course of its mandate, he stressed.  Somali engagement is crucial, he added, stressing:  “Efforts to support Somali-led security will only succeed if we all work together.”

Christoph Heusgen (Germany) strongly urged the Government of Somalia to cooperate with the Panel of Experts.  She welcomed a review of the ban on the charcoal trade but cautioned that the environmental effects of lifting the ban must be considered.

Mr. Barkin (United States) emphasized that all attacks inside Somalia must cease.  Affirming his delegation’s support for the sanctions, he said it is crucial to disrupt sources of financing and weapons for both Al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  He encouraged Somali officials to engage with the Panel and to work with it on the problems plaguing the country.  The Panel is “the eyes and ears of the Council” in Somalia, he said.

Antoine Michon (France) said the arms embargo remains crucial because it suppresses the capacity of terrorists such as Al-Shabaab, prevents the arms traffic from conflict areas such as Yemen and helps security-sector reform, especially Somalia’s efforts to manage weapons stocks.  Unfortunately, Al-Shabaab also received revenues from arms, tobacco and other sources, he noted, emphasizing that it is unacceptable to set new conditions for the Security Council in order to cooperate with the Panel.

Bader A. Almunayekh (Kuwait) affirmed the critical role of the Panel of Experts in preventing weapons and funding from reaching terrorists.  Applauding the Government’s progress in weapons management, he expressed appreciation for the results of the recent forum on transferring assets of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to Somalia’s national forces.

The meeting began at 3:01 p.m. and ended at 3:28 p.m.

For information media. Not an official record.