The Lifting Of Arms Embargo On Somalia (Part II) – OpEd


Was the arms embargo on Somalia lifted or eased? Is Somalia ready for the kind of lifting announced? What are the implications of this on Somalia and the region? Why shouldn’t Somalia be able to acquire the necessary arms and equipment and build its own army like any other sovereign nation? These are some of the questions the Somali people, neighboring countries, and indeed, other countries and pundits and experts must be asking themselves in this regard. We shall attempt to respond to these questions in this continuing article on the lifting of the arms embargo on Somali.

But first we must refer to Somalia and its military prowess from ancient history. In the northern Dhambalin region of Somalia there are caves that depict paintings of early human life in the country. They include among others colorful paintings of cattle and even mounted horsemen. There is also a tomb in El Kab, in Egypt, which shows a 17th century BC text, which mentions an attack on Egypt by the Kingdom of Kush and its ally, the Land of Punt (ancient Somalia) –Nevine El-Aref (2003-08-06). “Al-Ahram Weekly/Heritage/El Kab’s hidden treasure”. The ancient Chinese which had links with Somalia knew the country as “Pi-pa-lo” and noted that it had four cities each of which was trying to gain supremacy over the others and that they had an army of some twenty thousand among them and they all wore protective armor (Eastern African History By Robert O. Collins – Pg 53).

These two references and others indicate that Somalia had always had some sort of military organization in the past. The fact that they would even fight among themselves should not be overlooked. The same thing goes on even today, although the Somali people, congregate together when it comes to outsider or foreign threats. 

The monsoon winds in the northwestern Indian Ocean, generally also referred to as the Somalis  Sea have always played a major factor in its relations with others, perhaps its geostrategic location between Egypt, India, and Europe was, indeed, the center of the “Indian Ocean World” as was coined by Andrew Mickleburgh, in his article “The Horn of Africa and South Asia”,  and last modified on June 23rd, 2021, that as “the first global economy” – ( 

And fast forward, The Somali state which started in 1960, developed one of the strongest armies in Africa. Its military helped in the liberation of Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and others. It also assisted the air forces of Zambia and Burundi, and trained and armed the anti-apartheid forces of South Africa. This strong army was built for the liberation of Somali territories in Kenya and Ethiopia, which eventually led to the collapse of the Somali state in 1991. The country broke down into warring clan fiefdoms and became a fertile market for all kinds of evil forces including mercenaries and terrorists. This led to the imposition of the arms embargo on the country in 1992.

Somalia’s militarism is as ancient as the country, and it involved historic empires, sultanates and colonial armies from Europe as well. The country and its people are not new to the art of war, and like many other nations, has used its military prowess for its political and other ends. The fact that sanctions were imposed on the country, has, indeed, contributed to the country’s fragility, weakened it and led to the failed state description labeled on it, and constraining the nation from its natural evolution, which includes having a strong military to maintain law and order within and protect it from others.

The Somalis and Somalia looked for a total lifting of the sanctions, but it appears that this is not the case. This is easing of sanctions and not lifting of the arms embargo totally. It also allows private security companies to import arms and weapons into the country. The private security companies are not defined in the resolution that was passed by the UN Security Council on December 1st, 2023, which is a historic date in the Somali calendar. At least, a step was taken in the right direction to free the country from the United Nations Organization. However, it has its drawbacks which are quite significant. They include among others:

  • The non-definition of the private security companies. Are these foreign troops to be brought into the country by foreign parties or are they Somali private armies? The issue of private security companies remains a major obstacle to peace and stability in many parts of the world. Iraq, Syria, Libya and the latest infected country, Sudan all indicate that private security companies only add problems to any nation’s peace, stability, and development. Why would Somalia be different?
  • The Federal Government of Somalia is required to submit a list of all the imported weapons to the Security Council. Does this mean that it would have to seek approval before importing or just to keep the security Council of all the country’s stocks of arms and weapons? Are all members of the UNO required to do the same or is this for Somalia alone?  This is certainly restrictive, as this is not applied to sovereign nations. Is Somalia a free and sovereign nation?

All sovereign nations maintain security services in the form of armies, police and other services. This goes back to the history of all nations, communities and other human clusters living together in a defined space. But as Somalis, forever warring against each other after the collapse of the state in 1991 and the country breaking down into clan fiefdoms, required some common sense being imposed from the outside. The UN weapons embargo was good in the beginning, but it appears that it was taken advantage of by parties that did not wish Somalia well, which dragged on for, now, some thirty years.

 Somalia’s Ambassador to the U. N., Abukar Dahir Osman, is right, when he said that “The lifting of the arms embargo enables us to confront security threats.”  He further noted that it would allow the country to bolster its security architecture as it would now be able to have access to arms and equipment that would adequately protect both the country and its people.

The ability of the country to be able to equip its armies better would add to improving not only the stability of the nation but fight off terrorism, and help it assert control over its total territory, which currently, it is unable to do. One must take note of the fact that the country is currently broken down into clan fiefdoms or federal member states that act as almost independent countries. A strong security platform is necessary for the Federal Government of Somalia to regain control of its total territory and further assistance, in this regard, would probably be required of the United Nations Organization and friendly nations.

The lifting of the arms embargo on the country was, indeed, important and marked as a pivotal point in the history of the nation, indeed an inflection point. It should certainly help in the rebuilding of the nation in a more peaceful manner, allow the country to face the other challenges that it faces including fighting off hunger and starvation, rebuilding of the necessary infrastructures in terms of roads and ports and communities. While it may appear to have some shortfalls, the lifting of the arms embargo, should be welcomed by Somalis. Certainly those who benefited from the chaos would not be happy, but it is perhaps time for them to forgo and forget the senseless and chaotic path they chose and participate in the rebuilding of the nation.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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