Embargoes and sanctions on Somalia

Embargoes on Somalia, and how to apply for an export licence.


This guide contains information about embargoes and sanctions on Somalia, and provides information for exporters. You can find more general information here on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions, and a list of all the countries where there are current restrictions.

The export of strategic goods and technology from the UK is controlled for various reasons. This could be due to concerns about the target country, including internal repression, regional instability, human rights violations, concerns about the development of weapons of mass destruction or foreign policy. The UK may also have international treaty commitments as a result of European Union (EU) or United Nations (UN) trade sanctions or arms embargoes, put in place for national and international security.

This guide provides information about the arms embargo on Somalia, which has been imposed by both the UN and EU and has been implemented in UK law.

It explains how the arms embargo affects businesses which intend to export strategic goods to Somalia.

Strategic goods include military equipment, security and paramilitary goods. They are subject to export control legislation, which is operated by the Export Control Organisation (ECO) within the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).

Export control updates

If you intend to export to Somalia, you should keep yourself informed of the current situation through the media and other information channels.

To keep informed of latest updates about arms embargoes and changes to strategic export control legislation, please subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters.

Extent of the arms embargo on Somalia

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of ‘arms and related material’ (ie military ammunition, weapons and goods). This can be put in place by either the UN, the EU, the Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), or at a UK national level.

The UK interprets an arms embargo as covering all goods and items on the UK Military List (which forms part of the UK Strategic Export Control Lists), unless stated otherwise.

Some goods which are not on the UK Military List might also need an export licence. For example, dual-use items are subject to the Military End-Use Control, if the exporter has been informed that:

  • they are - or may be - intended for use in military equipment in a destination that is subject to an arms embargo
  • they are intended for use in any destination, as parts or components of military goods which have been illegally obtained from the UK

In addition, the Somalia United Nations (UN) arms embargo includes ‘a prohibition on the direct or indirect supply to Somalia of technical advice, financial and other assistance and training related to military activities’.

In 2007, UN Resolution 1744 specified that the arms embargo would not apply to supplies of weapons, military equipment, and technical training and assistance intended solely for the support of use of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and its restoration and humanitarian work.

Somalia is also subject to Trade Controls under Schedule 4 Part 3 of the Export Control Order 2008. This means that the destination is subject to transit control for military goods. See the guides on transport controls and trafficking and brokering (trade controls).

Applying for an export licence to Somalia

Exporters can apply to the UK government Export Control Organisation (ECO) for an export licence for their goods. The ECO considers all applications on the basis of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria. The first criterion requires the government to identify whether the proposed export would contravene the UK’s international commitments. Read the guide on assessment of export licence applications: criteria and policy.

For details on different export licences available see the guide on licences: export, trade control and transhipment.

Since the UK has to enforce the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia, this basically rules out the export of any strategic goods to Somalia - that is, any military equipment, security and paramilitary goods on the UK Military List, and dual-use items which are subject to Military End-Use Control. The only exception is for strategic goods supplied to the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). For information on AMISOM, see the section in this guide on Somalia arms embargo key legislation.

When applying for a licence, you should be aware of the current licence processing times by destination. You can view details of licensing statistics on the ECO Reports and Statistics website.

In applying and using any licence, exporters should be aware of their responsibilities. See the guide on compliance and enforcement of export controls.

Somalia arms embargo key legislation

An arms embargo is a ban on the export of ‘arms and related materiel’ - ie military ammunition, weapons and goods - imposed by either the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU), or the Organisation on Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

UN Security Council Resolutions

On 23 January 1992, in response to the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Somalia, the UN Security Council issued an arms embargo on the country in Resolution 733.

In July 2002, Resolution 1425 banned the financing of arms acquisitions and the indirect sale and supply of technical advice and military training.

In December 2006, Resolution 1725 partially lifted the arms embargo.

In 2007, UN Resolution 1744 partially lifted the arms embargo, to allow the supply of weapons, military equipment, and technical training and assistance intended solely for the support or use of the African Union mission to Somalia (AMISOM). AMISOM’s purpose is to stabilise the country, prepare for its post-conflict restoration and create the necessary security for humanitarian assistance.

The embargo was further amended in November 2008 by UNSCR 1844.

You can access Security Council resolutions on the UN website

EU legislation

In December 2002, the EU adopted UN Security Resolution 733, imposing an arms embargo on Somalia. This was enforced via Council Regulation No 147/2003, which was issued on 29 January 2003. The UN Resolutions have since been modified and the scope of the EU regulations have subsequently been amended as a result.

You can access EU sanctions information on the Europa website

UK legislation

UK law has implemented these statutory instruments to enforce the arms embargo on Somalia:

See the guide on the Export Control Order 2008.

Other restrictions on Somalia

UK companies operating in Somalia would face such security risks that the UK Department for Business Innovation & Skills does not offer any help to companies who wish to export or invest there.

Somalia has not had a central government since 1991 - when civil war broke out - although a Transitional Federal Government was formed in 2005.

Despite these risks, in 2008 UK exports of goods to Somalia included power generating equipment and machinery, road vehicles and professional scientific controlling instruments. The Department for International Development (DFID) is involved in supporting Somalia’s development and humanitarian support.

Financial sanctions

There are a number of notifications issued in respect of the financial measures taken against Somalia. They are frequently updated and supplement the main legislation provided by the EU and UK government.

You can view the latest notifications and a current list of asset freeze targets for Somalia.

Further information

BIS ECO Helpline

020 7215 4594 or email:

Subscribe to the Export Control Organisation’s Notices to Exporters

ECO performance reports and statistics on the BIS Searchable Database website

UN Resolutions on the United Nations website

EU sanction information on the Europa website

UK legislation on the website

Overseas Security Information for Business (OSIB) on the UK Trade & Investment website

Somalian information on the DFID website

Published 15 October 2012
Last updated 4 June 2013 + show all updates
  1. Included links to financial sanctions content on GOV.UK
  2. First published.