News / Africa

Somalia's Defense Minister: Nation Can't Afford Weapons

Somali government forces march during a parade to celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the national army, in the capital Mogadishu, April 12, 2013.
Somali government forces march during a parade to celebrate the 53rd anniversary of the national army, in the capital Mogadishu, April 12, 2013.
Reuters
— Somalia's armed forces have not received "a single bullet" despite the partial lifting of a United Nations arms embargo because the East African country lacks funds, its defense minister said on Wednesday.

Somalia's new leaders aim to train and equip a professional army of about 28,000 soldiers within three years, but they are hamstrung by a lack of cash, Abdihakim Fiqi said during a trip to London to drum up donor support.

"The arms embargo was lifted almost two months ago and we haven't received a single bullet or one single AK-47 or gun. Nothing. Because of lack of resources," Fiqi told the Royal United Services Institute defense think tank in London.

The Horn of Africa nation is only just emerging from two decades of civil war, and is struggling to rebuild a country riven by clan divisions and whose infrastructure and institutions are in tatters.

A newly appointed parliament last year elected a new president, the first vote of its kind since the toppling of former military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

In recognition of the legitimacy of Somalia's new leadership, the United Nations in March partially lifted an arms embargo on Somalia, allowing it to buy light weapons.

Somali forces currently number in the low thousands, and are a poorly equipped and fragmented mixture of state troops and militias struggling to battle al Shabaab Islamist militants, who want to impose their brand of Islamic law on Somalia.

"For the last four months our soldiers are just sitting back not doing anything. Al Shabaab are fighting them, engaging them, attacking them. They are just in the defense position... due to a lack of weapons and ammunition," said Fiqi.

African Union peacekeepers have been largely responsible for pushing al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab out of the capital Mogadishu and other urban centers in the past two years, but the group is still able to launch major attacks, including a suicide bombing on Sunday that killed at least eight people.

Fiqi declined to give an estimate for the number al Shabaab fighters remaining, but said due to a lack of funding the group was mired in "leadership wrangling," and was "increasingly weakening, contained and losing ground every day."

However, al Shabaab is highly mobile, a reason why Somalia aims to build an army made up of agile light infantry units.

"Our national security stabilization plan indicates up to 28,000 soldiers within three years," said Fiqi, putting the cost of raising such an army at about $160 million.

The minister is part of a Somali delegation, including President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, that attended a conference on Somalia in London on Tuesday to drum up donor funding.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid