According to a recently revealed confidential report by U.N. monitors, Kenyan soldiers in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia aided in illegal charcoal exports from the port city of Kismayu. Illegal charcoal exports generates millions of dollars a year for Islamic militants seeking to overturn the government, reports MSN.
The U.N. Monitoring Group’s latest annual report to the Security Council’s sanctions committee on Somalia and Eritrea highlights the difficulty of cutting off al Shabaab militants’ funding. The Kenyan military has denied the allegations.
The report was compiled prior to before new clashes in Kismayu where rival militias have been battling for control of the strategic port city. The clashes came after Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia and a former Islamist warlord, took charge of the Jubaland region, which includes Kismayu, in May.
“Kismayu is a lucrative prize for clan leaders, bringing with it generous revenues from charcoal exports, port taxes and levies on arms and other illegal imports,” reports MSN.
Because of this the Security Council banned the export of charcoal from Somalia in February 2012 as cut off one of the main sources of income for al Shabaab. The al Shabaab has been vying for control of Somalia.
Kenyan forces in the African Union’s AMISOM peacekeeping mission helped the Somali government retake control of Kismayu after the al Qaeda-aligned militants fled in September 2012. AMISOM has a U.N. Security Council mandate and is funded by the European Union and United States.
Following the retake of control of Kismayu, the AU urged the Security Council to lift the charcoal export ban, at least temporarily.
Kenya supported the idea and argued that Kismayu’s angry charcoal traders could undermine the security of Kenya’s troops. But the Monitoring Group, which reports on compliance with the Somalia/Eritrea sanctions regime, opposed Nairobi’s analysis.
“The argument that a group of charcoal traders constituted a greater threat to the KDF (Kenya Defence Force) than al Shabaab that had just been routed in Kismayu, was difficult to appreciate,” the group stated in an annex to its annual report, which was seen by Reuters, reports MSN
“Instead, it was far more likely that exporting charcoal would exacerbate clan tensions and resource interests, leading to much broader conditions of conflict,” the group said in its report. “And this is precisely what subsequently occurred.”
In fact the Monitoring Group’s report went even further and accused Kenyan troops of taking sides against it in the recent clashes in Kismayu and suggested they should be replaced by a more neutral force. Kenya has since denied the claim.
“As late as 26 October 2012, the AMISOM Deputy Force Commander for Operations and Plans, Major General Simon Karanja (of Kenya), assured the President that the port was closed and there was no shipping traffic, while he knew otherwise,” the Monitoring Group said in the report.
The Monitoring Group estimated that al Shabaab, which has been driven out of many parts of Somalia but remains a potent force, exported some 9 million to 11 million sacks of charcoal from the country in 2011, raking in more than $25 million.
“At the rate of export since November 2012, the Monitoring Group estimates that this number is rising to 24 million sacks per year and represents an overall international market value of $360-384 million USD, with profits divided along the charcoal trade supply chain, including for al Shabaab,” the report said.
Charcoal generates a large amount of money. According to the report, charcoal exports from Kismayu alone were worth an estimated $15 million to $16 million per month. And this is an underestimate, say traders in Dubai.
“The group said there was also charcoal exporting from Barawe, the al Shabaab-controlled town north of Kismayu, bringing the militants $1.2 million to $2 million per month in taxes,” reports MSN.
The monitors point out that the United Arab Emirates has been aware of the illegal Somali charcoal shipments. In September 2012 the United Arab Emirates notified the Monitoring Group that it had impounded a shipment of 100,000 sacks of Somali charcoal.