NAIROBI (AFP) United Nations monitors have accused Ugandan peacekeepers of selling arms to Islamist rebels fighting the government and Ethiopian troops in Somalia.
Amid a row over the acquisition of military hardware by bickering factions in Somalia’s transitional government, the UN panel charged with monitoring the situation there said it was alarmed by « continued militarisation and an increase of armed action » between the rival camps.
« The fact that members of the transitional federal government are buying arms at the market in Mogadishu is not new to the monitoring group, » it said.
« But during this mandate period, the monitoring group received information on sales of arms by prominent officials of the security sectors of government, Ethiopian officers and Ugandan officers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). »
The report, seen by AFP on Friday, was sent to the UN Security Council on Thursday by the panel which is charged with reviewing the 1992 arms embargo slapped on Somalia after it descended into anarchy a year earlier with the ouster of strongman Mohamed Siad Barre.
In it, the experts said arms on sale originate from army stocks or are seized following battles with Islamist insurgents.
« According to arms traders, the biggest supplier of ammunition to the market are Ethiopian and transitional federal government commanders, who divert boxes officially declared ‘used during combat’, » the report said.
Since Barre’s ouster, several well-armed clan-based factions have been in an almost constant state of low-level war, hindering effective monitoring of the UN arms embargo.
The UN Security Council has rejected several pleas by President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed to ease the arms ban, warning that such a move would exacerbate fighting in the lawless nation.
The experts accused neighbouring Ethiopia, Yemen and Eritrea of continuously violating the embargo by sending weapons shipments to the increasingly hostile factions within Somalia.
Somalia’s breakaway northern regions of Puntland and Somaliland are other entry points for weapons.
« The routes are more covert, and the weapons reach Somalia either by a large number of small vessels, or through remote locations along the land borders, » the report said.
« The Somali police force no longer differs from other actors in the armed conflict, despite the fact that many of its members have received training in accordance to international standards, » it added.
The panel lamented that the Somali government’s budget, heavily supported by international donors, lacks even the most minimal standards of transparency.
« Some donors expressed discontent that some of the funding provided, despite being earmarked for civilian and peace-building activities, may have been used for military activities and purchase of military materials. »
Somali troops, their Ethiopian allies and AU peacekeepers have been routinely targeted by Islamist insurgents over the past year, worsening security and choking humanitarian operations in the country.
With tacit United States support, joint Somali-Ethiopia forces ousted the Islamists from power in southern and central Somalia early last year after six months in rule during which they were accused of links to extremist groups.
AMISOM has just over 2,500 Ugandan and Burundian troops in Somalia but the deployment falls short of the 8,000 pledged by the pan-African body and has been unable to curb the violence in the face the insurgents growing strength