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Kenya: Govt Dismisses UN Claims ‎On Somalia Arms Ban‎

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Washington/Nairobi, May 23, 2006 – Kenya has dismissed criticisms by a UN panel responsible for overseeing enforcement of an arms embargo in Somalia that it was ignoring its requests for help.

The UN Security Council's embargo monitoring committee had noted in its latest report that it made "numerous attempts to solicit the co-operation and assistance of the government of Kenya," without much success.

The attempts included separate letters sent in February to Kenya's Foreign Minister and its UN ambassador. In addition, "personal attempts were made by monitoring group members, both in Nairobi and Mombasa, to establish meaningful and productive contacts with the government."

"In all cases," the report adds, "the monitoring group received no response from the government of Kenya."

But speaking to The EastAfrican in Nairobi, an Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Moses Wetangula, said Kenya was a supportive member of the UN in all its resolutions. He said Somalia was a peculiar case since despite the arms embargo, the transitional government needed all the help it could get to establish a standing army and police force.

Kenya, said Mr. Wetangula, has spent millions of dollars to help Somalia form a government with working structures. "The international community needs to engage in the Somali political process until it forms a workable federation," he said.

This is not the first time that the Somalia arms-embargo monitoring unit has been critical of Kenya's behavior. The panel charged two years ago that the government was failing to halt the smuggling of tones of khat to Somalia, where sales of the drug help finance illicit arms purchases.

The issue, said Mr. Wetangula, should be addressed by turning the heat on the countries and organizations selling the arms to the warlords. Besides, the money raised by the sale of khat supports thousands of families who have no other source of income except money sent to them by relatives abroad.

Italy, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have been supplying military materials to Somalia's transitional government, the UN panel adds.

"Clandestine third-country involvement," in financing a warlord alliance in Somalia is further noted by the UN committee. The monitoring group says in its report last week that it is not naming this party because an investigation of the financing channel has not been completed.

Kenya has been mandated by the African Union and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to assist the transitional government stamp its authority in the lawless nation in the horn of Africa, which contributed greatly to the proliferation of illicit small arms in the East Africa region.

Kenya, which shares a 1,200-km porous border with Somalia, has borne the brunt of the illegal arms trade, besides hosting thousands of refugees from the country.

A Joint Reporting compliance with the UN embargo, Kenya has increased patrols along the Kenya-Somalia border, which reduced incursions into Kenya by the Somali warring factions.

Mr. Wetangula said Kenya was so deeply involved in the Somalia peace talks that the UN special envoy for Somalia, Wilson Tubman, was a frequent visitor to Nairobi.

To enforce the embargo, says Mr. Wetangula, the UN will have to concentrate its efforts on getting the Somali coastline - which has seen a sharp increase in piracy activities - better patrolled.

The UN report also names Ethiopia and Eritrea as sources of weapons shipments to rival forces in Somalia. The two horn of Africa nations have gone to war twice over a border dispute and are said to be backing different warlords.

Somalia's interim president charged earlier this month that the US was supplying funds to a group known as the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counterterrorism. The alliance is currently engaged in bloody battles in Mogadishu against Islamist militias said to have links to Al Qaeda.

The US State Department has not responded specifically to allegations of US funding for the warlord alliance. A department spokesman last week said the US does aim to assist "responsible individuals and certainly members of the transitional government in fighting terror."

"It's a real concern of ours - terror taking root in the Horn of Africa. We don't want to see another safe haven for terrorists created," the US spokesman said.

A truce in Somalia's worst violence in a decade was in danger of collapse last Tuesday after Islamic gunmen ambushed a prominent warlord, Mohamed Dheere, and killed at least two of his men.

The ambush occurred a few hours after a clan elder was shot and seriously wounded while trying to mediate between militias loyal to Islamic courts in Mogadishu and gunmen from a self-styled anti-terrorism alliance of powerful warlords.

Elders had succeeded last Sunday in halting an eight-day battle for control of Mogadishu, which killed 150 people and sent hundreds of terrified civilians fleeing from rockets, mortars and heavy machine gun fire.

The warlord alliance met last Tuesday to decide its response to the ambush of Dheere just outside Mogadishu.

The Islamic courts say dollars are being poured into Mogadishu to strengthen their enemies, while the warlords accuse their rivals of having links to Al Qaeda.

Somalia's interim government, the 14th try at restoring central rule since dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre was ousted in 1991, is not strong enough to move to Mogadishu from its base in the southern city of Baidoa.

Interim President Abdillahi Yusuf and Islamic leaders have accused Washington of backing the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism, a title said to be a cynical ploy to get US cash.

Source: The East African, May 23, 2006

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