Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government urged the
Security Council in December to prohibit the export and import of
charcoal produced in Somalia. But the UN monitoring group, which
describes charcoal as “Somalia’s black gold,” charged in its report last
July that the transitional government is “complicit” in the charcoal
trade that serves as one of Al Shabaab’s largest sources of income.
“Most commercial motor vessels transporting goods
to the port of Mogadishu discharge only part of their cargo in order to
deliver the remainder to [Shabaab-controlled] Kismayu and collect
charcoal destined to [Arab Gulf] countries — with the full knowledge of
the Mogadishu port authority,” the monitoring group said.
The manager of Mogadishu Port, Sayid Ali, had
previously represented the Kenya business interests of Abukar Omar
Adaani, a businessman with “historical linkages to militant Islamist
groups in Somalia,” the report stated.
Many Somali traders prefer to discharge their cargo at Kismayu
rather than at Mogadishu because of “the corrupt and predatory practices
of the Transitional Federal Government,” the monitors added. Their
report notes as an example that Mogadishu port authorities charge an
import duty of $1,300 on a mid-size vessel, while the Shabaab overseers
at Kismayu charge only $200.
Charcoal exports are part of a trading cycle that
includes Al Shabaab imports of sugar, much of which is smuggled across
the border into Kenya, the report added.
About 10,000 bags of smuggled sugar may be entering Kenya from Somalia on a daily basis, the monitors said in July.
Sugar imported as contraband from Somalia is sold in Kenya at lower prices than sugar produced in Kenya, the report found.
of last April, a 50-kilogramme sack of Kenyan sugar was selling at
Ksh4,800 to Ksh4,900 ($58-$60), while sugar smuggled from Kismayu was
being sold in Garissa for Ksh4,350 to Ksh4,450 ($53-$55).
More than sugar is sometimes transported in those
sacks of contraband. “The Kenyan authorities have also discovered light
weapons and ammunition concealed in some sugar consignments,” the
monitoring report noted.
It is not known whether Kenya’s military operation
in Somalia, which commenced after the monitoring report was issued, has
significantly disrupted sugar-smuggling rings.
Al Shabaab’s charcoal-sugar trade cycle “is
dominated by networks of prominent Somali businessmen operating mainly
between Somalia and the Gulf Co-operation Council countries, notably
Dubai,” the monitors said. “Bank accounts in the Gulf States where the
profits of this trade are deposited can be used to launder voluntary
contributions to Al Shabaab through fraudulent invoicing, overvaluing of
import proceeds and undervaluing of exports.”
Charcoal produced in southern Somalia comes mainly
from acacia forests in riverine zones between the Juba and Shabelle
rivers, the report said. Massive deforestation has occurred in those
areas as a result. And that in turn has contributed to the food
insecurity that rose to famine levels in parts of Somalia last year, UN
Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council.