NAIROBI — Should Somalia’s fledgling government be allowed to import weapons to arm its nascent military? With areas under government control increasing and the threat from Al Shabab militants decreasing, that is the question being put to the UN Security Council.
The African Union this week appealed to the council to allow arms and other military equipment into the country to equip Somalia’s military. It is a request being made as the international community begins to look at how long it will be before Somali troops can provide security on their own, allowing the departure of African Union troops, who have been in Somalia since 2007.
Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur, said Wednesday that it is time to increase the capabilities of the country’s military, after a year of military and political progress. The Islamist extremist rebels were pushed out of Mogadishu in August 2011, and over the last three months a new government has been installed.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has asked the United Nations to adjust its arms embargo so that the government can bring in rifles, light machine guns, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades with which to fight the militants. The embargo, the argument goes, was designed to keep arms away from Al Shabab, not the government.
The United States is determined to help create a new Somali army subservient to civilian and constitutional control that will ‘‘take on increasingly new responsibilities that are much broader than anything AMISOM has been equipped and manned to do,’’ said the top US diplomat on Africa, Johnnie Carson, earlier this month.
Separately, Kenya’s deputy foreign minister, Richard Onyonka, told the forum that more than 2,700 Ugandan troops have died in Somalia since 2007.