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UK arms exports to Somalia (2012-2022)

Country Overview

Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa with a population of over 15 million people. The majority of the population is of Somali ethnicity and practices Islam.

In recent years, the country has faced various challenges and changes, including the continuation of the conflict with al-Shabaab militants, the formation of a new government and constitution, and efforts to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and economy. 

Somalia is an agrarian country, however the effects of climate change have caused droughts, famine and poverty, which in turn have contributed to food insecurity and displacement of people.The humanitarian was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which put additional strain on the health system and economy .

How many licenses for the sale of arms to Somalia did the UK government issue between 2012 and 2022?

In total, between 2012 and 2021, 89 limited and 40 unlimited licenses were granted from the UK government to Somalia.

What is the total value of those exports in GBP?

In total, between 2012 and 2021, there were £8.1m worth of approved military arms exports from the UK to Somalia. In 2012, 2013 and 2015 exports reached over £1m and peaked in 2013 with £2.3 million of annual exports. Numbers were lowest in 2019 when merely £44k worth of arms were sold.

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

What are the top 10 types of arms export licenses Britain is selling to Somalia?

Military helmets and body armor were the most frequently sold item from the UK to Somalia for single use military exports. However, if we consider dual export licenses, the UK sold over £17.2m of Telecommunications and information security equipment to Somalia. 

Top 10 military items exported from the UK to Somalia between 2012-2022Total number of licenses
military helmets50
body armour46
components for body armour44
all-wheel drive vehicles with ballistic protection18
bomb suits12
military support vehicles11
munitions/ordnance detection/disposal equipment11
military equipment for initiating explosives5
military combat vehicles4
gun mountings4
Top 3 military export items from the UK to Somalia between 2012-2022 by valueValue in GBP
ML6 ‒ Armoured vehicles, tanks£4.6m
ML4 ‒ Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures£1.5m
ML13 ‒ Armoured plate, body armour, helmets£1.7m

Source: Campaign Against Arms Trade, 2023

 Why should British citizens be concerned about arms sales?  

1) Given the lack of government control, dissemination of arms, and all parties’ inclination to use violence against civilians, an increase in arms to Somalia will most likely only further fuel the situation.

2)  The supply of arms to armed groups on both sides of the conflict has continuously violated the arms embargo throughout the duration of the conflict Preliminary analysis of the data indicates that the largest cases of transfer diversions have been directed to Libya where both merchants and end users, including armed groups, are converting them, especially before the strengthening of the arms embargo on that country in mid-2014.

What has the British government said about these concerns?

In it’s 2015 corporate report, the Uk government expressed their concern at the numerous reports of sexual violence, targeting killings of journalists, and violations against children. Additionally they raised concerns over freedom of the press and Somalia’s continuous use of the death penalty.

In it’s 2018 UN Human Rights Council UK Statement on Somalia, the UK commended Somalia for its progress made on human rights, however, it also emphasized it’s deep concerns which persist about ‘civilian casualties, including at the hands of terrorists; displaced people, refugees and migrants; children in armed conflict; sexual and gender-based violence; and restrictions on journalists and freedom of expression. A lack of accountability for perpetrators of violations and abuses persists.’ And urged Somali authorities to strengthen the rule of law and bring an end to impunity.

In 2021, the UK government expressed disappointment in the absence of significant progress and for the high levels of harassment and arbitrary detention.

What evidence is there of human rights abuses that the Somalian government has committed since 2012?

Somalia has been plagued by violence, terrorism and human rights abuses in recent years. Some of the most common abuses included extra judicial killings, sexual violence, forced displacement, restrictions of freedom of expression. More concrete examples of these abuses include: 

In 2013, the U.N Security Council’s arms embargo was partially suspended. This provided the Federal Government of Somalia ( FGS) the opportunity to strengthen the National security Architecture of the Somali Security Forces ( SSF) by providing military equipment. During this time HRW reported on civilians being killed and wounded during crossfires by the federal government, an increase in targeted killings, summary executions and arbitrary detentions by Somali authorities. In October 2014 Security Council Resolution 2182 reaffirmed the overall arms embargo on Somalia and extended the provisions related to arms supplies to the Somali government until 30 October 2015.

In October 2021, authorities forcibly displaced around 1,750 people to Puntland. Many of them were Af May speakers originating the contested border town of Las Anod in the South West of the county.

Almost every annual report by the UN, Amnesty International or  HRW reported about authorities throughout Somalia repeatedly harassing, arbitrarily arresting, and attacking journalists. Heightened tensions surrounding the election correlated with an increase in harassment toward journalists, particularly in Puntland. Repeatedly, journalists and activists were imprisoned under the countrie’s outdated penal code, such as Kilwe Adan Farah, who was sentenced to three years in 2021. The same allegations against the government, were made the following year, when in October 2022 the federal Information Ministry released a directive that “prohibited dissemination of extremism ideology messages, both from traditional media broadcasts and social media”, intended to further restrict freedom of speech.

Despite this catalogue of harm, the UK still deems it acceptable to sell weapons and arms to Somalia.