The United States government as well as individual Ugandans and Kenyans are violating the United Nations ban on arms trading with Somalia, a UN monitoring group charges. Shockingly, the violations involve officers of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces peacekeeping contingent inside Somalia who are apparently selling arms back to the very same groups that are fighting them in the continuing insurgency in that war-torn country.
Worse still, the UPDF [Uganda People’s Defence Force] top brass, despite having been informed of the allegations, appears to have done nothing about them. Nor does the African Union, under whose aegis the Ugandan troops have been deployed, appear bothered to investigate the UN group’s charges.
Also worrying is the report that arms have been smuggled into Kenya to supply an unnamed "militia group." US violations are said to include a missile attack on a target inside Somalia along with "intensive and comprehensive military training" conducted inside Ethiopia for officers from the breakaway Somalia region known as Somaliland. Ugandan military officers assigned to the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia are accused of selling weapons seized from Shabaab insurgents. Many of these arms make their way back into the hands of the Shabaab, the group said in a report released a week ago.
Kenyans have been smuggling weapons from Somalia for purchase by a Kenyan militia group and other clients, the UN monitors indicate. The panel further cites Ethiopia, Eritrea and Yemen as major violators of the embargo imposed by the UN Security Council in 1992. The monitors say they regard the presence of Ethiopian troops inside Somalia as a violation of the arms embargo.
Ethiopia invaded Somalia late in 2006 to beat back the forces of the Union of Islamic Courts that were threatening the survival of the Transitional Federal Government. The TFG [Transitional Federal Government] itself, as well as Shabaab insurgents and various warlords, also regularly engage in proscribed arms deals, the UN monitors say. "According to arms traders," the report states, "the biggest suppliers of ammunition to the markets are Ethiopian and Transitional Federal Government commanders.
The Mogadishu arms markets are doing a booming business and, according to precise information received by the Monitoring Group, their clients include parties in Kenya." The report details arms deals involving Kenyans that took place in February and March. In the first, weapons were allegedly ordered from Somalia by Kenyan-Somali cattle traders on behalf of clients that the report does not name.
The arms were transferred in two separate shipments hidden in a truck carrying foodstuffs and taken across the Kenya- Somalia border en route to Isiolo, the report says. Isiolo was also the final destination of AK-47s and other weapons from Somalia that entered Kenya in March, according to the UN report.
The buyer this time was "a militia group in Kenya" that the monitors do not identify. The Kenyan government contributed $2 million to the Transitional Federal Government, according to the UN report. This money could have been wrongfully used, the monitors suggest, noting that "no safeguards exist against the diversion of such funds towards the financing of arms-embargo violations." Ugandan officers stationed in Somalia have been selling stockpiles of weapons and ammunition from seized Shabaab arms caches, the report states.
Some of the lighter arms, such as AK-47 assault rifles, make their way back to Shabaab fighters, who may use them in attacks on the Ugandan troops. Heavy weapons sold by the Ugandans, such as Zu-23 anti-aircraft guns, end up in the hands of authorities in Somaliland and the separatist region of Puntland, the report adds.
Members of the UN panel presen ted these findings to Ugandan government officials last December. Gen Aronda Nyakairima, chief of defence of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, promised to conduct an immediate investigation and to communicate its results to the UN prior to January 1.
But as of early April, when the monitors completed their newly released report, the Ugandan government had not responded to several UN follow-up requests for the promised information.
The African Union also has not replied to a November 14, 2007, UN letter requesting a meeting to discuss the monitoring group’s charges concerning the Ugandan members of the Somalia peacekeeping force. "Several Somaliland army officers have undergone combat training in Ethiopia, delivered by instructors from the Ethiopian National Defence Force and the United States Army," it adds.
It notes that the 1992 UN arms embargo resolution was extended in 2002 to include "training related to military activities." These sessions involving training for special operations and counter-terrorism are said to last six months and to be conducted at three military bases around Addis Ababa.
Somaliland OFFICERS receive "a significant financial incentive and new uniforms to participate in the training, which is very intensive," the report says.
"Upon their return to Somaliland, trained officers are generally put in command of a brigade, while continuing to receive a salary from the Ethiopian military. The training is part of wider assistance given to the Somaliland army, which allegedly includes arms and field material." The UN monitors also note that a US government spokesman confirmed an American missile strike on March 2 on targets in the village of Dobley in southeastern Somalia .
"The Monitoring Group considers all weapons delivered to Somalia a violation of the embargo, irrespective of the manner in which they were delivered," the report states. It notes that a letter requesting additional information was sent to the US government on March 12. No reply had been received by the time the report was submitted to the Security Council in April.
A UK Royal Air Force military plane landed at Berbera in Somaliland on November 26, 2007, carrying undisclosed cargo, the report adds.
The British government said in a December 28 response to a UN query that the flight was part of "a routine liaison" that UK diplomatic staff in Addis Ababa maintain with Somaliland authorities. Further flights of that kind are expected, the British said in their reply to the UN monitoring group.