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Somalia : President Hassan Sheikh calls for UN Security Council to lift the arms embargo

By Tajuddin
Feb 26th, 2016
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud

Istanbul, Turkey (Anadolu Agency + DIPLOMAT.SO) – An arms embargo on Somalia is creating an “inconvenience” for the country as it battles international extremists, its president has told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

Somalia – which has significant ties to Turkey – is fighting a regional insurgency by the al-Shabaab militia but has faced a partial arms ban, imposed first in 1992 then partially relaxed.

It is this ban which is handicapping the country’s armed forces in dealing with the militants, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud told Anadolu Agency in Istanbul this week.

“Although we are a sovereign state and we are not a transitional government, even we are not fully free to [deal] with the rest of our international partners,” said Mohamud.

He said the embargo is also “making people very uncomfortable and uneasy in supporting Somalia [with] military hardware”.

The UN Security Council first imposed the embargo on Somalia to cut the flow of weapons to feuding warlords who had ousted former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre a year earlier and plunged the country into civil war.

In 2013, the UN agreed to partially lift the embargo to allow the government to buy light weapons to combat al-Shabaab, which has emerged as a major security threat in the region.

Mohamud is now calling on the UN Security Council to lift the rest of this embargo.

Peace process

Somalia has been combating al-Shabaab with African Union soldiers and trying to emerge from a decade-long civil war. Mohamud is relying on national reconciliation to unite the country.

However, the challenges are significant. President Mohamud says reconciliation cannot happen “without functioning state institutions, without a justice system, police and the rule of law.

“Reconciliation can be spoiled by bad guys.”

He also acknowledged that there is still “mistrust” within the community, making officials concentrate on “peace and trust building.”

President Mohamud emphasized how the Turkish government and NGOs have been playing a part in that reconciliation process. He said Ankara is helping the state-building process while NGOs are part of “the reconstruction and recovery of Somalia”.

He recalled that Turkey hosted a major conference for all Somali elders including traditional clans and civil society in 2012.

“The result was the government I am leading today,” Mohamud said.

Turkish, undeterred donor

Turkey’s engagement in Somalia deepened following a 2011 famine which killed nearly 260,000 people.

During the famine, Turkey’s then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – now president – visited the country.

Four years later, a car bomb exploded near a hotel accommodating a group of Turks, leaving four dead — including the bomber. This attack took place just before another visit by Erdogan.

Three Turkish workers were also injured during a rocket attack on the Turkish Embassy in Mogadishu in April 2014.

Undeterred, Turkey has continued to maintain its ties with the country. Somalis have been among the top five largest recipients of official aid from Turkey since 2011.

Turkey has also pledged to grant $2 million every month. Mohamud underlined Ankara would provide this assistance without any precondition and the sum would help meet their deficit in their “small budget”.

Mohamud said Turkish companies were the first to enter Somalia and they have been investing for 3 years.

After Syria, Somalia is the largest recipient of aid from Turkish civil society.

This week Turkey hosted a two-day Somalia High-Level Partnership Forum in Istanbul. Welcoming foreign investors to Somali, Mohamud said his country had established foreign investment laws that he hoped would make it a more attractive destination.

The World Bank estimates Somalia’s GDP was $5.7 billion in 2013, with an estimated per capita GDP of $435.

In 2013, Somalia was ranked the fifth-poorest country in the world after enduring two decades of conflict.

Household consumption financed by remittances was equivalent to more than 100 percent of Somalia’s GDP in 2013, the World Bank said.

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