The Somalia arms embargo was imposed in January 1992 by Security Council Resolution 733 (1992) primarily to restrict the delivery of all weapons and military equipment into Somali territory as a way of impacting on the worsening security situation in the country. Sixteen years after its imposition, however, the country appears to be more awash with small arms and light weapons than it was before the embargo was imposed. This paper argues that even though the Somali embargo may have failed abysmally in restricting the access of factions in the conflict to weapons, it has not failed in offering instructive lessons for other embargoes on the continent and in strengthening the use of embargoes as an instrument for the pursuit of peace in the world. On this basis, the implementation and monitoring dynamics of the arms embargo in Somalia are discussed as a basis for not only strengthening it, but also shedding light on modalities and conditions for effective implementation of embargoes elsewhere on the continent. The author stresses that for an embargo to succeed in Somalia and elsewhere, the Security Council must demonstrate to embargo-busting entities its ability to employ ‘sticks’ in the enforcement of the embargo. Among other factors, the existence of a functioning central authority, the support of other states, an improving domestic security situation and the character of the Security Council in relation to the embargo are identified as necessary conditions for the effective implementation of any arms embargo on the continent.
About the author
Andrews Atta-Asamoah is a researcher in the Training for Peace (TfP) Programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). He holds a Master of Arts degree in International Affairs from the Legon Centre for International Affairs at the University of Ghana and a bachelor’s degree from the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Ghana. He conducts research on security and peace issues in Africa.