UN report reveals arms trade between Yemen and SomaliaYemen flowing arms to Africa [Archives:2003/684/Front Page]
By Yemen Times Staff
A UN report submitted recently to the Security Council fingers Yemen as the source of weapons to a number of East African countries, particularly through Somalia, and often ending up in Ethiopia and Kenya.
The U.N. report said it was relatively easy to obtain surface-to-air missiles and import them to Somalia, noting that the missiles used in the failed attack on an Israeli airliner leaving Mombasa last November were brought to Somalia from Yemen.
The report was an attempt to unveil needed information about the flow of light weapons from the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn of Africa, which adds to the insecure conditions of this vulnerable region of the world.
The report also highlights the mysterious trips by ships docking at Bosasa at Yemen, apparently without passengers. And it identified the need to track the sources of weapons in Yemen and the region, and then work on preventing arms dealers from easy access to such arms.
Somalia: A haven for terrorists
The UN report noted that Somalia continues to be a haven for terrorists by providing the ground and environment needed by terrorist organizations to flourish.
Meanwhile, at least four al-Qaeda suspects remain in Somalia, where additional weapons may have been imported for the purpose of carrying out further attacks in east Africa, according to a draft of the UN report obtained by Reuters on Tuesday.
“Before, I thought there was only a little such activity going on, but this huge activity in our country is a danger to our innocent people,” said Said Duale, manager of the Wireless African Communication Company. “This kind of activity will prevent Somalia getting back to towards law and order.”
Some Somali faction leaders have pointed to the danger of militant activity as a reason for increased international efforts to restore central authority.
Rival warlords have carved Somalia into a patchwork of fiefdoms since the overthrow of former military ruler Siad Barre in 1991, defying 14 peace initiatives aimed at piecing the country of seven million back together.
The latest attempt to unify Somalia's divisions has run into problems in Kenya in recent weeks, with the withdrawal of key faction leaders after more than a year of negotiations.
The United States has warned that al Qaeda fighters seeking a new refuge after being chased out of Afghanistan might hide in Somalia, using its lack of authority to cloak their activities.
The document was written by an expert panel investigating arms smuggling into Somalia in violation of a 1992 arms embargo and is due to be presented to the U.N. Security Council.
Others were keen to point out the paradox of Somalia: gunmen with truck-mounted machineguns still roam the streets of Mogadishu, but ranks of businessmen and professionals seeking to rebuild are exerting a growing influence towards order.
“We can export these bad ideas to outside countries, but at the same time we can show the world that a community can manage without a central government,” said schoolteacher Yusuf Ali.
But for many Somalis, the dominant feeling was one of surprise that al Qaeda could be operating within their capital ) and fear for what it might mean for the future.
“I think the international community won't solve our problems because it is our people who committed those crimes, with the support of some international terrorists,” said peace activist Halimo Kaahie.
“Somalia is a no-man's land, and many of those who live here are not genuine Somali citizens,” she said.