A new report by the United Nations Monitoring Group claims countries a part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have continually failed to enforce the ban on charcoal exports out of Somalia, which is the primary source of funding for al-Shabaab.
Who is al-Shabaab and why is there a charcoal ban?
Al-Shabaab was born after the Ethiopian military, with the support of the United States, invaded Somalia to depose the United Islamic Court (UIC), a moderate Islamic group that took control of the capital city of Mogadishu in 2006. Al-Shabaab had initially been the militant branch of the UIC. After splintering from UIC, the radical extremist group has sustained a ten-year insurgency in Somalia against the Somali government and its allies. Since the Somali government and its agencies, including the military, could not support itself, as a result of a lack of a strong federal government since 1991, then Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed asked the African Union for help. Like with many counterinsurgency efforts, AMISOM and the Somali government are trying to defeat al-Shabaab on many fronts. Military excursions against the extremist group is the primary mode of combating the fanatical group.
Another angle to combat al-Shabaab is an agreement to limit their ability to sustain their insurgency. The primary way in which the group has maintained its decade-long struggle is through the use of the charcoal trade. After a plea from the Somali government in 2011, United Nations (UN) Resolution 2036 (2012) stated that “…all Member States shall take necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect import of charcoal from Somalia.” According to the latest report, al-Shabaab conservatively makes approximately $10 million each year from the illicit charcoal trade. This includes the selling of charcoal predominately to the Gulf States and the systematic taxation of charcoal at checkpoints between the stockpiles and the ports of Buur Gaabo and Kismayo in Southern Somalia. This year alone, 4000 charcoal production sites have been identified in Lower and Middle Jubba by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FOA).
Inadequate enforcement of the charcoal ban by AMISOM
For the past four years, the UN Monitoring Group has claimed that the countries a part of AMISOM have ignored calls to enforce the charcoal ban. The report says that the “implementation of the charcoal ban has been poor.” The report further states, “A lack of commitment with regards to the consistent implementation of sanctions, and in some cases a conspicuous deliberate failure to comply with the charcoal ban, facilitates al-Shabaab’s financing and undermines counter-terrorism efforts in Somalia.”
The first culprit of the poor enforcement of the charcoal ban is the Interim Jubbaland Administration (IJA), one of the six states in Somalia. The IJA governs and is in charge of all the resources in its jurisdiction, including the ports of Kismayo and Buur Gaabo. The report argues that the administration has poorly enforced the charcoal ban since the majority of the charcoal transactions are conducted in this region. In fact, many of the charcoal stockpiles are found in this administration. Additionally, the report claims that the local government relies on the illegal charcoal exports to finance its operations. The president of IJA, Ahmed Madobe, has also been implicated in the scandal. The Monitoring Group is trying to verify sources and reports that the All-Star Group Trading Company, a company comprising of the main illicit charcoal suppliers, traffickers and investors in Kismayo and Dubai, has an agreement with the Ahmed Madobe, a former al-Shabaab commander.
The second main culprit is the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF). As part of AMISOM, the KDF is the central AMISOM unit stationed in Jubbaland. The report maintains that force has “neither assisted the Somali authorities in implementing the charcoal ban nor facilitated Monitoring Group access to charcoal exporting ports, as stipulated in Resolution 2317 (2016).” In one instance in June 2017, the KDF troops refused to let members of the Monitoring Group leave the base to inspect the charcoal stockpile. The report implies that the KDF are beneficiaries of the illegal trade of charcoal.
The third main culprit is the Republic of Djibouti, who, according to the report, has not done enough to combat the false paperwork that states the origin of the Somali charcoal is in fact Djibouti. The Djiboutian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Osman Moussa Darar, who has repeatedly claimed that the false documents are reliable and legal. This was troubling since the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority, Customs, and the Chamber of Commerce stated that the Republic had not exported any charcoal during 2016 and 2017 period.
The latest Monitoring Group report is not stating anything new in regards to the lack of enforcement and implementation of the charcoal ban. With the amount of evidence that the Monitoring Group collects against the countries and individuals directly or indirectly involved in the illegal charcoal trade, it is distressing that neither the African Union, the UN or individual nations have taken any legal action against those involved. The precedent created in the past five years is that despite the evidence collected no action will be taken.