How illicit weapons trade in Somalia poses risk to Kenya

The weapons have been used by poachers, terrorists, drug and human traffickers

TOPSHOT - Kenyan paramilitary police burn illegal weapons on March 17, 2009 in Nairobi. - Kenyan police destroyed over 2,000 weapons that were used in criminal activities in many parts of the country and were confiscated by the police since 2007.  (Photo by SIMON MAINA/AFP via Getty Images)

Since 2019, there has been an increase in illicit weapons trade from Yemen to Somalia which have found its way to Kenyans who take part in poaching, terrorism, drug, and human trafficking activities.

According to findings of a report by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) weapons supplied by Iran to its Houthi allies in Yemen are being smuggled across the Gulf of Aden to Somalia.

Houthis also known as Ansar Allah, the Proponents of Allah in English, are an armed Islamist militia and tribe from north Yemen's mountainous Saada region.

They seized control of the country's capital in late 2014, starting a civil war that still rages and has led to the government calling for a Saudi-led coalition to intervene and restore the internationally recognised administration.

The study revealed that the existence of “long-established commercial trade routes” linking the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden has facilitated the movement of illicit weapon shipments.

The investigators found signs that the weapons that were initially supplied by Iran included serial numbers that were close together, an indication that they were part of the same shipment.

Since September 2015, international naval forces have carried out 13 maritime seizures of weapon shipments believed to have been destined for Houthis in Yemen.

On December 23 2021, the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet intercepted a dhow in the northern Arabian Sea. Believed to have been en route to Yemen, the dhow carried 1,400 Kalashnikov assault rifles and over 200,000 rounds of ammunition.

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