UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. Security Council on Friday extended an arms embargo on Somalia and a ban on trade in charcoal, a key source of funds for al-Shabab extremists — and it imposed a new ban on ingredients for explosive devices the group is increasingly using.
The vote on the British-drafted resolution was 12-0 with Russia, China and Equatorial Guinea abstaining because of concerns over some of its content including references to human rights and a dispute between Horn of Africa neighbors Eritrea and Djibouti.
The resolution condemned al-Shabab attacks and expressed “grave concern” at the “serious threat” the al-Qaida linked group continues to pose to Somalia and the region, “particularly through their increased use of improvised explosive devices.”
It also condemned the flow of weapons and ammunition to and through Somalia in violation of the arms embargo.
The resolution expressed “serious concern” at reports of increased exploitation of Somalia, by al-Shabab and transnational organized crime networks. It said they are using Somalia as a transit and trans-shipment point for “the trade in sub-standard, illicit and dual-use goods,” which generates revenue for al-Shabab.
After three decades of civil war, extremist attacks and famine, Somalia established a functioning transitional government in 2012 and has been working to rebuild stability. But U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the government must still tackle violent extremism, terrorism, armed conflict, political instability and corruption.
The council’s extension of sanctions on Somalia until Nov. 15, 2020 came three days after the release of a report by its panel of experts who monitor sanctions.
They said al-Shabab remains “a potent threat” to regional peace and security, is now manufacturing home-made explosives, expanding its revenue sources and infiltrating government institutions.
The panel said a significant escalation of U.S. airstrikes targeting al-Shabab militants and their leaders has kept the group “off-balance” but has had “little effect on its ability to launch regular asymmetric attacks throughout Somalia.”
The panel said that for the first time it obtained “definitive evidence” that al-Shabab has been manufacturing improvised explosives. The extremist group previously relied on military-grade explosives, obtained mainly from remnants of war and munitions captured from the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, the experts said.
Given that improvised explosive devices are al-Shabab’s “weapon of choice,” the panel recommended that the Security Council restrict the group’s access to chemical precursors and other components it uses to construct improvised explosive devices or IEDs.
Noting the increase in IED attacks by al-Shabab, the resolution adopted Friday ordered all countries to prevent the direct or indirect sale or supply of precursors to Somalia if there is evidence or “a significant risk they may be used in the manufacture in Somalia of improvised explosive devices.”
It also orders countries to give the Somali sanctions committee 15 days advance notice of any sale, supply or transfer of precursors.
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky told the council that the sponsors sought to “overburden” the resolution “with instructions on the human rights theme.” And he said the measure’s reference to the Eritrea-Djibouti dispute was “unacceptable.”
Polyansky noted that last year the council voted unanimously to lift sanctions against Eritrea following its thaw in relations with Ethiopia and other neighboring countries.
The situation between Eritrea and Djibouti “does not pose a threat to international peace and security” and the resolution of issues between the two countries should be solved through “bilateral diplomacy,” he said.
Somalia’s U.N. Ambassador Abukar Dahir Osman expressed regret at the council’s failure to consider all concerns and reach consensus on the resolution.
He reiterated the government’s demand that the council lift sanctions, calling them “outdated” and “flawed.”
Osman said the council has failed to take into account “the Somalis’ positive new reality on the ground,” and the government’s policy of rebuilding a unified and sufficiently equipped Somali National Army. And he criticized council members for providing no “benchmarks” for sanctions to be lifted.