Violating U.N arms embargo, Ethiopia dispatches planes carrying weapons to militia in South Somalia

Kismayo airport

According to reports from the port city of Kismayo in South Somalia, planes dispatched from Ethiopia landed at the city’s airport carrying large amounts of weapons on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

The weapons were bound for a militia controlled by Ahmed Mohamed Islam, a former Al-Shabaab commander who has since switched sides to support the Federal Government of Somalia, at least nominally. Islam and his militia control Kismayo city and some of the surrounding countryside. He is allegedly under the sway of Ethiopia, which has a policy of patronizing various warlords and strongmen in Somalia.

It is not clear what motivated Ethiopia to send these weapons to Islam, but it has been interpreted by some  analysts as a response to the election of Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo to the Somali presidency on Wednesday of last week. Farmaajo is seen as a nationalist figure who is resistant to Ethiopian interference in Somali politics. In contrast, his predecessor, former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was seen as being under Addis Ababa’s influence and Ethiopia tried to have him re-elected, unsuccessfully.

Because Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, and because of ongoing problems with Islamic extremists and marauding clan militias, the country has been under a United Nations arms embargo since 1991. Ethiopia’s secretive dispatch of weapons to Islam and his militia would thus constitute a violation of this embargo. Weapons that enter Somalia are typically resold by militias to terrorist organizations such as Al-Shabaab and to rebel groups in neighboring countries, and in that regard this move by Ethiopia may not only contribute to further instability in Somalia but the region as well.