Saturday, February 25, 2012

Exports of charcoal from the port of Kismayu in southern Somalia

Exports of charcoal from the port of Kismayu in southern Somalia generate at least $15 million a year in revenues for Al Shabaab militants, according to a report by a UN monitoring group. 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. 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. 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. As 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. In London, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who attended the Lancaster House conference on Somalia on Thursday, urged the international community to help eliminate Al-Shabaab and Al-Qeada through air raids. “We welcome targeted air strikes against Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab,” said the premier at the convention that attracted representatives from over 50 countries and international organisations.

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