A team of United Nations monitors charged Kenya Defence Forces unit assigned to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) of not implementing a ban on charcoal exports by Al-Shabaab. Al- Shabaab makes at least $10 million (Sh1 billion) annually by distributing charcoal from ports in southern Somalia where KDF units are stationed, the UN panel alleges.
“Amisom, whose Kenyan Defence Forces contingents stay deployed at the ports of Kismayu and Buur Gaabo, has neither helped the Somali authorities in executing the charcoal ban nor ease Monitoring Group access to charcoal exporting ports,” the report states.
Poor execution of the five-year-old UN Security Council ban “allows Al-Shabaab funding and undercuts counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts in Somalia,” the report observes.
As a case in point of Shabaab’s ongoing capability to frustrate counter-insurgency efforts, the UN team refers to an attack on a KDF base at Kulbiyow on the Kenya-Somalia border that killed at least 67 Kenyan soldiers. Shabaab radicals have also taken the lives of scores of civilians and police officers inside Kenya in the past two years.
It is not the first time UN experts have made claims of KDF non-cooperation with the charcoal-export ban.
The UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group said last year that Kenyan troops assigned to Amisom were receiving $2 (Sh200) per bag of charcoal unlawfully shipped from the port of Kismayo.
Kenyan forces’ collusion in the illicit trade may have brought them $12 million (Sh1.2 billion) in proceeds, the 2016 report suggested.
The January attack on the KDF’s Kulbiyow base also ended in Shabaab’s capture of weaponry that included a 105mm howitzer, an armoured personnel carrier, an 81mm mortar launcher and a heavy machine gun, the new report adds.
Shabaab is further said to have used more powerful 120mm mortars, likely seized from an Amisom Burundian base in 2015, in an April attack on a joint Uganda-Somali National Army base at Baledogle.
Weapons of that calibre represent “a new and significant threat to peace and security in Somalia,” the report warns.