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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Somalia: Disarmament, compulsory for a gun toting country at a crossroads

The UN Security Council in a surprisingly unanimous vote opted for a partial lift of the 21 year old –virtually non-existent – arms embargo that dawned on Somalia after the breakout of civil war. Since then, a steady of flow of small arms has been funnelled into the conflict prone country despite the Security Council having knowledge of the proliferation of small arms.

Knowing that, will that stop the conflict in the war torn country – who was able to shrewdly import small arms during the embargo – which now has been given the green-light to freely import?

I believe at this current juncture during the problematic early stages of the Somali Federal Government (SFG), the initial issue before armament should be country wide disarmament. Firstly and foremost in the capital, where guns are found as easily as any other product such as soap and groceries.

The Security Council reasoned that the lift of the arms embargo is so that the SFG can build their national forces to diminish Al Shabaab’s waning control in southern Somalia. However the current array of militia forces – who have not all been integrated into the Somali forces – battling Al Shabaab, alongside African Union forces have made serious headway.

Do they need to be supported? Of course; however there are ways to support forces without supplying the scandal prone Somali National Forces with small arms.

The Somali National forces are actually far from what the moniker states; the forces are not representative of the various regions and states in Somalia. Regions bordering Mogadishu, was and in some parts are still controlled by militias. Other areas have adopted the federal government’s name; however there has been no serious integration between the two. The ex-militias have dropped the name but still remain loyal to clan and militia ties as was the case in Bay region recently. After an administration change by the SFG, ‘government’ forces loyal to ousted Governor Abdifatah Mohamed Geeseey boycotted the new administrations’ offices even refusing employees access.  

However that debacle did not stop the government from standing with the admin change in the region and pushing for more regional and local admin selection from Mogadishu, across Somalia.

A recent agreement by Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama and the SFG, calls to incorporate ASWJ forces and military equipment into the federal government forces. The agreement is a bid by the SFG to convalesce the Federal Government’s control in governing the country. However, insisting on regional and local admins across the country and the incorporation of all militia forces, in a bid to spread its authority across Somalia is a momentous task. If the SFG is honest about reform, they have failed to improve the current ragtag Somali National Forces.  

Despite the Somali Federal Government’s efforts to mend ties between civilians and security forces and threats of harsh punishments to delinquent troops, there is prevalent distrust by civilians of security authorities. Especially Somali National Forces from Mogadishu, which is dominated by a sub-clan.

Many of the top military commanders from the previous admin have not been replaced despite the 2012 Somali Eritrea Monitoring Group’s (SEMG) report of government forces’ blocking access to divert aid. It was reported that former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed scolded many top military officials and threatened to sack them after numerous reports of rape and muggings by military forces.

Although the judiciary has sentenced many low level military troops to different crimes against civilians, its semi-clean record was blemished by a recent ruling.   Recently the judiciary came under fire internationally for its conviction of journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Koronto, who was initially, sentenced to 1 year however his sentence was lowered to 6 months following an appeal. He was found convicted of defaming the government among other charges, after he interviewed a woman who said she was raped by military forces. Oddly enough the woman – who was Koronto’s co-defendant – was granted her freedom after the appeal. Some journalists told me it’s a clear message to other journalists to lay off bad reporting of the Somali National Forces.

The lack of military reform despite persistent controversy, the contentious issue by the SFG – who oppose state formation processes – to build regional and local admins, compounded with the fact that the independent judiciary has been marred by controversy proves that political reform should be the SFG’s theme during its first year in office.

With a country divided by conflict and a pervasiveness of clan mistrust there needs to be more trust building and confidence in the government’s role to ensure peace and tranquillity in Somalia.

As I said earlier, one way of building that trust would be to begin a disarmament project starting in the capital and moving gradually across the country.

Knowing that the SFG still hasn’t gripped its full authority on Somalia politically or militarily; why has the US has backed Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s request for an arms embargo lift?

I believe that it’s an ill-advised expression of solidarity and a quick way to distribute small arms in a country torn by conflict. That being said, whatever the reason for lifting the ban, at this critical stage without collective tedious independent monitoring mechanisms, it could have serious implications on the federal government’s aspirations to lift Somalia out of 20 plus years of conflict and political infighting.

By Kainan Abdullahi Mohamed

The opinion above is solely the author's and does not necessarily reflect the views of   Garowe Online   and its affiliates.

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