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Somalia has very large stockpiles of weapons and ammunition left over from the cold war, when both the United States and the Soviet Union supplied war material to the country. Since the fall of General Siad Barre’s government in 1991, more small arms and light weapons have been acquired from the black market and neighbouring countries by insurgent groups such as al-Shabaab.The ongoing civil war and resulting political instability continues to contribute to the trafficking of small arms and light weapons and ammunition in the country.2

The UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS); the Regional Centre on Small Arms in the Great Lakes Region, the Horn of Africa and Bordering States (RECSA); the HALO Trust;  Conflict Armament Research (CAR); and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) have been working on the ground to support the through-life management of ammunition – in collaboration with the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) – in order to progressively hand back small arms and light weapons disposal activities to national security forces. Efforts have included supporting the destruction of ammunition, providing physical security and stockpile management training, building armouries, developing a registration system for ammunition and providing disposal equipment to Somali police forces.3

1 Robert M. Press, “Somali Civil War Is Fueled by Huge Stockpiles of Weapons,” Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 1992,

2 Fred Mugisha, Challenges in Addressing the Loss of Weapons in Peacekeeping Operations: Lessons from Somalia (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2018),

 “Ammunition Management Activity Platform (A-MAP),” GICHD, 2022,

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Further information

Accidental explosions

Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, one accidental explosion has been reported in Somalia.

Table 1. Accidental explosions in Somalia (1979–2021)

Year Location Owner/Manager Deaths  Injuries 
2005 Oodweyne Non-states (actor) 0 0

Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021,

Cases of diversion

Several cases of diversion have been reported since 2004 in Somalia. 

Table 2. Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition and explosives in Somalia since 2004

Year  Location Description
2018 Mogadishu At least 600 weapons were stolen in the past week from a former United Arab Emirates-run training centre in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The weapons, including new Kalashnikov assault rifles and Chinese versions of them, were stolen by Somali National Army soldiers who had been trained at the facility.
2016 N/A Improvised explosive device (IEDs), bullets and rifles allegedly stolen from Somalia security forces were handed over to Kenyan forces.
2011 N/A Bullets bought by international donors and intended for Somali soldiers were sold on open markets and became a 'significant source of supply' for insurgents, according to a confidential report given to the UN Sanctions Committee.
2004–11 N/A There were 445 instances of illicit arms transfers or seizures involving nearly 50,000 weapons, including Kalashnikov-pattern assault rifles, PKM machine guns, Dushka heavy machine guns, RPG-2s and RPG-7s, and B-10 recoilless rifles.

Source: Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar, “Exclusive: Weapons Stolen from UAE Training Facility in Somalia, Sold on Open Market,” Reuters, April 25, 2018,; “Somalia Hands over Weapons Stolen by Al Shabaab to Kenya,” Citizen Digital, May 11, 2016,; “Protection Fees, Stolen Ammo Extend Somalia's War,” Deseret News, May 7, 2011,; “Somalia Diverting Arms to Al-Shabab, UN Report Claims,” BBC News, February 14, 2014,; Matt Schroeder and Benjamin King, “Surveying the Battlefield: Illicit Arms in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia,” in Small Arms Survey 2012: Moving Targets (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).


To decrease the above-mentioned risks of accidental explosions and diversion, Somalia has disposed of its ammunition since 2017. 

Table 3. Number of pieces of ammunition / weapons disposed of in Somalia (2017–21)

Year Number of disposed ammunition/weapons
2017 877
2018 663
2019 1,078
2020 4,000
2021 3,883

Sources: Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, US Department of State, To Walk the Earth in Safety, reports published from 2018 to 2022 (Washington, DC: US Department of State); “Somalia,” UNMAS, accessed May 16, 2022,



To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Somalia: 

  • Development or refinement of standards and procedures on stockpile management; and  
  • Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles. 

Source: Somalia, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of Somalia to the UN, 2020),

Published Date: Monday 20 of November 2023