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UN says arms illegally going to Somalia
By EDITH M. LEDERER
UNITED NATIONS, May 23, 2008 - U.N. experts investigating violations of an arms embargo against Somalia report that countries and private traders are supplying weapons to warlords and militants, South Africa's U.N. ambassador said Thursday.
Dumisani Kumalo, who chairs the Security Council committee monitoring the sanctions, said the experts concluded that " Somalia is affected by a war economy with great profits made by military commanders who therefore have little incentive to change the status quo."
Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. The warlords then turned on each other, sinking the poverty-stricken nation of 7 million people into chaos.
Kumalo told the Security Council that the Monitoring Group on Somalia, which investigates violations of the 1992 arms embargo, painted a grim picture of the security situation in Somalia with the conflict expanding and the government's security forces fragmented.
The current weak transitional government, backed by Ethiopian troops, is struggling to quash a re-emerging Islamic insurgency that has killed thousands of civilians.
Kumalo said the group "characterized the continued presence of Ethiopian troops on Somali territory as a violation of the arms embargo" in its latest report. He said the group alleged that Ethiopian troops have imported military equipment to arm friendly clans in the fight against the insurgents.
The experts also found that boats from Yemen carrying illegal weapons regularly arrive in northern Somalia and that "arms shipments were reaching Somalia at points along the entire coast," Kumalo said.
"The monitoring group noted that both states and private traders were suppliers of arms and military equipment (and) that warlords, militants and the business community were among the recipients," Kumalo said in a report to a closed council meeting, which was released to the media.
In past reports, the U.N. monitors have said almost a dozen countries were supplying arms or cash to the warring parties in Somalia.
The U.N. experts are currently investigating the links between piracy, which is rampant off Somalia's coast, and arms trafficking, Kumalo said.
He said the experts also reported that "elements" of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia and the country's transitional government were involved in illegal trafficking.
Kumalo didn't provide any details but he told the council the sanctions committee supported a recommendation for independent investigations by Somalia's transitional government, Ethiopia's government, and the African Union force of illegal arms trafficking.