Somali president wants waiver on arms embargo extended

Published: January 30, 2014
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
AU summit 30.01.2014 in Addis Ababa. Somalia delegation led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud


Somalia’s president said he wanted the U.N. Security Council to extend a partial lifting of an arms embargo beyond March when the exemption is due to end because Somali troops need more and better equipment to battle al Qaeda-aligned insurgents.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud also told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday evening that he was working to improve the management of public finances, after the resignation of two central bank governors in quick succession last year rattled Western and other donors.

The election by parliament in 2012 of Mohamud, a 58-year-old former academic, marked a break from two decades of political chaos and conflict, first at the hands of feuding warlords and then al Shabaab militants who vow allegiance to al Qaeda.

Since he took office, the battered capital has enjoyed a building boom, some Somalis who fled have returned and, in a sign of greater international confidence, the U.N. Security Council partially lifted an embargo, letting Mogadishu import light arms for its army for a one-year period till March 2014.

Yet huge challenges remain for Mohamud’s government as it struggles to extend federal rule in a fractured nation and rebuild institutions to run a modern state, while still battling Islamist rebels who control swaths of countryside.

“Every Somali and our international partners have to understand: as far as there is territory that is not controlled by the government, the phenomenon of al Shabaab, al Qaeda and terrorists will always be there,” the president said in Addis Ababa, speaking on a trip to attend an African Union summit.

To extend its control, the national army needs better equipment and training, he said, which would be denied it if the full arms embargo was reimposed.

Some diplomats had voiced concerns last year about even a partial lifting, saying Somalia was already awash with guns and the weapons could end up in the wrong hands.


But the president said his government had met demands for monitoring any weapons brought in, and added: “I think we have all the right now to request the U.N. Security Council extend that (suspension) and ultimately lift the embargo.”

Mohamud said Somali troops would improve their capabilities by fighting alongside the newly expanded African peacekeeping force, AMISOM, which has driven al Shabaab out of major urban areas.

Asked when a widely expected new offensive against al Shabaab would start, Mohamud only said: “It is not far away.”

As well as seeking to establish security in a nation that had been the epitome of a “failed state”, the president has the daunting task of rebuilding institutions such as the central bank that are essential for bringing more order to the economy and managing state funds. It has been an uneasy process.

A report by U.N. experts last year said they had evidence of graft in the way the central bank was run, prompting the then governor to resign, although he denied the charges. A second governor quit days after taking office, which diplomats said was due to her concerns about graft. That unsettled donors further.

Mohamud dismissed such worries and said his government was working closely with international partners on reforming public financial management, but said it was a difficult job in a nation where any past system had collapsed.


“We started everything from scratch and I think today we have institutions that started working,” he said, but noted that more action was needed. “We have our international partners fully engaged supporting those institutions in that reform.”

He cited moves to set up a joint financial management advisory authority, with Somali officials and representatives from institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. A new central bank board would also be picked.

An interim central bank governor, whose 90-day term runs out in about a month, was not expected to have his assignment extended but could apply for the permanent post, Mohamud said.

Another challenge facing Mohamud is implementing federal rule in a nation where trust in central government is in short supply. One region, Somaliland, declared independence two decades ago, while ties with another, Puntland, are strained.

But the president said he was working to rebuild trust.

The election of a new president in Puntland, replacing a man who broke relations with Mogadishu after accusing the central government of failing to share power, was creating “momentum for coming closer,” Mohamud said.

He said rebuilding ties with Somaliland required more negotiations, but that three rounds of talks since 2012 in Turkey between officials from Somaliland and the federal government was a sign of modest progress.

“There were times when even sitting together was not possible,” the president said.

Source: Reuters

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