In Summary
  • He likened charcoal smuggling from Somalia and other African countries to the drug wars in Mexico in terms of violence and amounts of money involved.
  • Contacted by the Sunday Nation later, Mr Midiwo claimed that KDF had “taken over” charcoal business in Kismayu after taking the area from the militants in 2012.

The Kenya Defence Forces has been accused of colluding with Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia’s illegal multi-billion-shilling charcoal trade.

A damning new report by a US government-funded organisation, which echoes earlier findings by the United Nations, alleges that the KDF mission to Somalia under the African Union appears to include the charcoal trade in one of the most stinging criticisms of Kenya’s presence in the neighbouring country.

“Kenya, although formally a participant in Amisom, which operates in support of the Somali national government, is also complicit in support of trade that provides income to Al-Shabaab, its military opponent both inside Somalia and, increasingly, at home in Kenya,” says the Institute of Defence Analyses (IDA) report by Mr George Ward, formerly Washington’s ambassador to Namibia.

According to the report, there are about 70 businessmen — located in the Somali port city of Kismayu that is controlled by KDF, and in Garissa and Nairobi in Kenya — who are brokers in the charcoal trade. The report does not name any individuals.

Denied allegations
Kenya’s military chiefs have previously denied allegations of involvement in any illicit activity in Somalia and have maintained that since October 2011, they have only engaged in military action aimed at stabilising the war-torn country. But the accusations, which first surfaced last year, have refused to go away.

KDF did not respond to questions e-mailed by the Sunday Nation on the fresh allegations. Yesterday, a communication officer who talked to us by phone promised to reply to our inquiries, but he had not done so by the time of going to press. KDF Chief General Julius Karangi was said to be out of the country on official duty.

The IDA is a non-profit organisation funded by the US government. It is the second institution to accuse KDF of complicity in the illicit charcoal trade in Somalia after the UN Security Council last year published a report documentating similar accusations.

“Since the charcoal trade is Al-Shabaab’s primary income, it is not an exaggeration to posit that a portion of the resources used to carry out terror attacks in Nairobi and in Mombasa and other locations along the Kenyan coast is being generated with the acquiescence or even the cooperation of the KDF and Kenyan business interests,” says the report.

According to a recent report prepared jointly by the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) and Interpol, Al-Shabaab’s primary source of income appears to be from informal taxation at roadblocks and ports.

“In one roadblock case they have been able to make up to $8 million (Sh696 million) to $18 million (Sh1.5 billion) per year from charcoal traffic in Somalia’s Badhadhe District,” says the Unep/Interpol report, adding that trading in charcoal and taxing the ports have generated an estimated annual total of $38 million to $56 million for Al-Shabaab.

Earnings from the trade are vital in sustaining the terrorists’ capacity to carry out attacks in Somalia and Kenya, Christian Hellemann, the principal analyst for the Unep/Interpol report, said in an interview with the Nation last month.

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