Citation(s) from the literature library

Hughes, Ed and Karina Lynge. 2010 ‘SALW Ownership - Private Ownership and Registration.’ Community Safety and Small Arms in Somaliland, pp. 43-44. Geneva: Small Arms Survey, the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva and the Danish Demining Group. 9 March

Relevant contents

SALW Ownership - Private Ownership and Registration
[SALW = Small arms and light weapons]

Prior to independence, all issues of ownership, sale and trading of arms in Somaliland were regulated by the Public Order Law, passed by the Mogadishu based government in 1963. In this law, the definition of arms included any type of small arms and ammunition, as well as any item containing explosive substances. This law required all traders of small arms to be registered and all private owners of arms to be authorised by the relevant regional governor.

The only small arms that could be authorised for private ownership under this law were non-automatic war rifles; rifles and guns for hunting purposes and pistols. In the absence of a new law over-riding this clause, this would technically mean that at present, owners of automatic assault rifles - including the AK47 variant that is the overwhelmingly popular choice of the 72.8% of household who own a small arms - are not technically able to either legally own such a weapon or register it.

In practice, two facts have effectively over-ridden this technicality. The first is that in the aftermath of the civil war, the government sought to bolster its forces and address the proliferation of weaponry under private control by passing Law No. 70/95 in 1995, which effectively nationalised all heavy weaponry in Somaliland not already under government control. This gave implicit recognition of SALW, including automatic assault rifles, as being appropriate weapons for private ownership, although crucially it did not explicitly define what constituted SALW. The second fact is that in 2006 Ministry of the Interior (MoI) began to implement a small arms registration scheme based on the draft registration bill currently under debate, which explicitly refers to pistols and AK-47s as weapons that can be registered for personal ownership.

So the issue of the most common weapons in private ownership has been addressed, but as in Law No. 70/95, the absence of a clear definition for what constitutes light weapons in the current draft of the Registration bill may continue to cause confusion. The draft currently under debate stipulates that only AK47 assault rifles or weapons of similar calibre and pistols are eligible for registration. Until the situation is clarified, there may be a small number of small arms owners whose weapons are neither eligible for legal registration nor clearly nationalised under Law No. 70/95. This may present a small loophole that requires attention in the future so that it is made clear that such items are the property of the state.

ID: Q5272

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