Kenyan peacekeepers aided
illegal Somalia charcoal export – U.N.
Sun, Jul 14 01:08 AM EDT
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (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
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
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 Qaeda-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
Defence 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
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 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
The group said an AMISOM commander lied to
“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
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
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
Shabaab, Ras Kamboni and Somali Kenyan
businessmen cooperating with the KDF (Kenyan
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in
Mogadishu and James Macharia in Nairobi;
Editing by Xavier Briand)
Kenyan peacekeepers aided