Time To Fully Lift The Arms Embargo In Somalia – OpEd


The arms embargo in Somalia has been in place since 1992 during when the country descended into civil war and anarchy, it was sanctioned with the longest arms embargo in history. The embargo was intended to prevent the flow of weapons to armed groups and reduce the violence in the country.

However, the rationale that gave impetus to the decades long embargo of conflict and instability must be reconsidered in the face of devastating international terrorism. it is time to reconsider the effectiveness of the embargo and its impact on Somalia’s security.

Massive Institutional Development

Somalia has made significant progress in recent years, including the election of a new government 2012, 2017 and most recent election in 2022, the establishment of Federal member states, and efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

In addition, Somali Security institutions went through comprehensive reform as part of growing force development and generation with support of growing lost of international partners including USA, UK, Turkey, EU, UAE,  the African Union and other bilaterals. However, the country still faces significant security challenges, including the ongoing threat posed by the terrorist group Al Shabaab.

Growing Terrorism Threat

Al Shabaab has been operating in Somalia for more than a decade and has carried out numerous attacks on civilians, humanitarian workers, and government officials. The group has been able to continue its operations due in part to the lack of sufficient resources and equipment available to the Somali National Armed Forces (SNAF). Without access to necessary military equipment, the Somali army may struggle to effectively respond to security threats and protect the country’s borders. As a result, the lifting of the arms embargo would enable the Somali government to acquire the necessary weapons and equipment to build a strong and capable national defense force.

Planned ATMIS Withdrawal

The withdrawal of forces from African Union Transition Mission (ATMIS) is a significant step towards the Somali government’s goal of taking full responsibility for the country’s security affairs. The decision to withdraw ATMIS forces is part of a broader plan to establish a self-reliant and capable national security apparatus that can effectively safeguard Somalia’s territory.

The withdrawal process involves a gradual transfer of security responsibilities from ATMIS to the Somali National Army (SNAF) and the Somali police force. This transfer is designed to ensure that the SNAF and police forces are adequately trained, equipped, and prepared to take over full responsibility for security operations in the country.

The Somali government recognizes the importance of building a strong national security apparatus to promote peace, stability, and development in the country. With the support of international partners, the government has been working to strengthen the capacity of the SNAF and police forces to effectively respond to security challenges and secure Somalia’s borders.

After 16 years in Somalia, the withdrawal of ATMIS forces is a critical milestone in this process, as it marks a significant shift in Somalia’s security landscape. The African Union has demonstrated that African problems can be resolved by African people and the sacrifices made by the African forces in Somalia are testament to this ideal. Somalis recognize and appreciate these sacrifices.

Capability Development and Lifting the Arms Embargo make sense

The SNAF has been working to improve its capacity to fight against Al Shabaab, but the arms embargo continues to constrain its ability to acquire the necessary weapons and equipment. The embargo has also made it difficult for the SNAF to partner with other countries and international organizations in efforts to combat terrorism and stabilize the country due to reputational risks and negative perceptions. Somalia’s image in the traditional media doesn’t match the growing, impressive development that has made Mogadishu the second fastest urbanizing city in the world. Somalia is thriving and its democratic institutions improving.

It is time to fully lift the arms embargo in Somalia and provide the SNAF with the resources it needs to defeat Al Shabaab and improve security in the country. This would allow the SNAF to acquire weapons and equipment that are essential for its operations, including armored vehicles, surveillance capability, and communications systems. It would also enable the SNAF to work with other countries and international organizations to enhance its training and capacity-building efforts.

Lifting the arms embargo in Somalia would not only improve the country’s security but would also create a more stable and prosperous future for its citizens. It would allow the SNA to take a more active role in protecting the country and its people, which would build trust and confidence in the government and promote peace and stability.

The international community should support Somalia in its efforts to improve its security and lift the arms embargo to  achieve lasting peace and stability in the country.

With a strong and capable national defense force, Somalia will be better equipped to defend against external threats and maintain stability within its borders. This, in turn, will help to promote economic development and improve the quality of life for the Somali people.

Ismail D. Osman

Ismail D. Osman is a Former Deputy Director of Somalia National Intelligence & Security Agency (NISA) – Writes in Somalia, Horn of Africa Security and Geopolitical focusing on governance and security. You can reach him [email protected] @osmando

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