News / Africa

UN: Kenyan Peacekeepers Aided Illegal Somalia Charcoal Export

Kenya Defense Force (KDF) soldiers, serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), patrol past stockpiles of charcoal near the Kismayo sea port town in lower Juba region, Somalia, Feb. 27, 2013.
Kenya Defense Force (KDF) soldiers, serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), patrol past stockpiles of charcoal near the Kismayo sea port town in lower Juba region, Somalia, Feb. 27, 2013.
Reuters
A confidential report by U.N. monitors accuses Kenyan soldiers in the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia of facilitating illegal charcoal exports from the port city of Kismayu, a business that generates millions of dollars a year for Islamic militants seeking to topple the government.
    
The case of the failed ban on Somali charcoal outlined in the report highlights the difficulty of cutting off al-Shabaab militants' funding and ensuring compliance with U.N. sanctions when there is little appetite for enforcing them on the ground.
    
The Kenyan military denied the allegations in the U.N. Monitoring Group's latest annual report to the Security Council's sanctions committee on Somalia and Eritrea.
    
The report was completed before recent clashes in Kismayu.
    
In that fighting, rival militias battled for control of the strategic port city after Ahmed Madobe, leader of the Ras Kamboni militia and a former Islamist warlord, became leader of the Jubaland region, which includes Kismayu, in May.
    
The situation remains tense though the Mogadishu government, which initially opposed Madobe, is letting him stay on as interim leader.
    
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.
    
The Security Council banned the export of charcoal from Somalia in February 2012 to cut off one of the main sources of income for al Shabaab, which has been fighting for control of Somalia for years and enforces a strict version of sharia law in the areas it occupies.
    
Kenyan forces in the African Union's AMISOM peacekeeping mission, which has a U.N. Security Council mandate and receives funding from the European Union and United States, helped the Somali government retake control of Kismayu when the al-Qaida-aligned militants fled in September 2012.
    
Afterwards, the AU almost immediately urged the Security Council to lift the charcoal export ban, at least temporarily.
    
Kenya supported the idea, arguing that Kismayu's angry charcoal traders could undermine the security of its troops. The Monitoring Group, which reports on compliance with the Somalia/Eritrea sanctions regime, disputed Nairobi's analysis.
    
"The argument that a group of charcoal traders constituted a greater threat to the KDF [Kenya Defense Force] than al Shabaab that had just been routed in Kismayu, was difficult to appreciate," the group said in an annex to its annual report, which was seen by Reuters.
    
"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, which is nearly 500 pages with all its annexes. "And this is precisely what subsequently occurred."
    
U.N. charcoal export ban flouted 
    
The Monitoring Group's report is likely to elicit new criticism of Nairobi from Somalia's government, which has 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 denied the charge.
    
The group said Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud asked AMISOM in October 2012 to keep Kismayu port closed to commercial traffic, including charcoal. But it said he was unaware that former Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas had already asked the Security Council's sanctions committee to review the ban.
    
The group said an AMISOM commander lied to the president.
    
"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.
    
The Kenyans did not hide the fact that they wanted to ease the charcoal ban because they feared it could make their job of keeping the peace in Kismayu that much more difficult.
    
When it became clear that the Security Council would not lift the charcoal export ban, the "the KDF [Kenyan forces], Madobe and his Ras Kamboni forces took the unilateral decision to begin the export of charcoal from Kismayu port," the report said.
    
Once that decision was made, the charcoal export business in Kismayu, which the Monitoring Group said is known to have the highest-quality charcoal in Somalia, resumed in earnest.
    
Colonel Cyrus Oguna, a spokesman for the KDF, which has been battling al Shabaab in Somalia since October 2011, said Kenya was not aiding the charcoal exports in any way.
    
"The KDF is not at the sea port. The port is being managed and supervised by a committee put in place by the administrators of Jubaland," Oguna said in Nairobi.
    
AMISOM did not respond to a request for comment.
    
Although the Kenyan AMISOM contingent and Madobe's Ras Kamboni militia took over Kismayu after al Shabaab left, the U.N. monitors said al Shabaab retained a share of the charcoal business after it lost control of the city.
    
"The nature of the business enterprise forged by al Shabaab continues with al Shabaab, its commercial partners and networks still central to the trade," the Monitoring Group said.
    
"Essentially, with the changeover of power in Kismayu, the shareholding of the charcoal trade at the port was divided into three between al-Shabab, Ras Kamboni and Somali Kenyan businessmen cooperating with the KDF [Kenyan army]."
    
Not only did the charcoal export business continue in spite of the U.N. Security Council ban, but it saw a dramatic increase, the U.N. monitors' report said.
    
"In fact, its shareholding in Kismayu charcoal, in combination with its [al Shabaab's] export revenues at Barawe [town] and its taxation of trucks transporting charcoal from production areas under its control are likely exceeding the revenue it generated when it controlled Kismayu," it said.
    
In the 1990s the Horn of Africa country imploded amid clan warfare after the overthrow of a dictator and became virtually lawless for two decades. AMISOM was created in 2007 to support efforts to restore order in Somalia, and today the mission's troops are mostly from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya.
    
"King of charcoal"
    
The Monitoring Group estimated that al-Shabab, 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-Shabab," the report said.
    
Somali businessmen arrange charcoal inside bags along a street near the main Baraka market in Mogadishu, March 27, 2012.Somali businessmen arrange charcoal inside bags along a street near the main Baraka market in Mogadishu, March 27, 2012.
x
Somali businessmen arrange charcoal inside bags along a street near the main Baraka market in Mogadishu, March 27, 2012.
Somali businessmen arrange charcoal inside bags along a street near the main Baraka market in Mogadishu, March 27, 2012.
The group said it estimated charcoal exports from Kismayu alone were worth $15 million to $16 million per month. It noted that traders in Dubai say the actual export amount is probably much higher.
    
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.
    
One Kismayu charcoal trader with strong links to al Shabaab is Hassan Mohamud Yusuf, alias Awlibaax, from the Mareehan clan and chairman of the Juba Business Committee, the group said. He is also linked to Dubai's key charcoal businessman, Saleh Da'ud Abdulla, who himself has connections to al Shabaab, it added.
    
Another is Ali Ahmed Naaji, from the minority Cawro-maleh clan, who "arranges or provides loans to al Shabaab, and makes investments for them in South Sudan," the report said.
    
It said Yusuf and Naaji alone account for around 32 percent of charcoal exports from Kismayu, most of which go to Dubai.
    
The largest purchaser of charcoal in Dubai is Al Qaed International General Trading, owned by Baba Mansoor Ghayedi, alias Haji Baba, an Iranian living in Dubai who described himself to the Monitoring Group as the "King of Charcoal."
    
The report said Haji Baba denied importing Somali charcoal in violation of the Security Council ban and that the paperwork shows his charcoal comes from Kenya and Djibouti, both of which have banned charcoal exports.
    
The Monitoring Group included in one annex what it said were examples of false bills of lading certifying Somali charcoal as coming from Kenya.
    
The United Arab Emirates has been aware of the illegal Somali charcoal shipments, the monitors said. In September 2012 it notified the Monitoring Group that it had impounded a shipment of 100,000 sacks of Somali charcoal.
    
The monitors said charcoal traders in Dubai informed them that the impounded shipment eventually reached the market. Some 10,000 bags of charcoal were unloaded in Dubai and the rest in Saudi Arabia. The consignee of that shipment was Haji Baba.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs