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KDF 'aiding' Sh22b illegal charcoal trade

By Benard Sanga | May 25th 2015

A new United Nations report claims Kenyan companies and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are leading participants in the illegal charcoal export through Somalia’s Kismayo port worth Sh22 billion annually.

The UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea report repeats claims ofKDF involvement in the illegal charcoal trade through Kismayo which it captured from Al-Shabaab in 2012.

But the report states that besides sharing a third of profits with other warlords and militia group, Al-Shabaab’s share of revenue from charcoal has thrived under KDF’s control.

“Al-Shabaab continues to benefit from the revenue generated, on a scale greater than when it controlled Kismayo...” says the report compiled for the UN Security Council in October last year.

The report seeks to demonstrate that illegal charcoal trade is still thriving in Kismayo port and other areas controlled by the KDF and its allies, the Ras Kamboni brigade, the Interim Juba Administration.

It says the money ends up in the coffers of the Al-Shabaab, which is documented in the same report to have increased operations in Kenya after the late 2013 Westgate Mall terrorist attack.

Fictitious port

And the report further alleges that early last year most of the charcoal exports from Somalia were diverted to Kismayo port “which is controlled by the Ras Kamboni Brigade and Kenya Defence Forces” in order to disguise links of Al-Shabaab allied traders.

The illegal traders are allegedly using the port to export the commodity to Oman, United Arab Emirates and other Middle East nations.

To further disguise the Al-Shabaab link, the report claims bills of lading and certificates of origin are altered in the Middle East  to suggest the charcoal originated from Kenya and Djibouti. It also says the documents claim the goods were loaded at a fictitious port called “Mombasa” in Kenya.

The authors of the latest report claim they wrote to the Kenyan government over falsification of its legal documents. Kenyan authorities are said to have raised concern with Middle East nations and its high commissions there over the illegal use of its official documents.

According to the report, Kenya’s Foreign Affairs ministry on June 5, 2014 wrote to the Kenyan high commissioner in Abu Dhabi (UAE) over the use of forged stamps to aid the illegal trade.

The group said it has submitted the names of 19 vessels to the authorities in Kuwait for verification against their customs databases.

“In addition, the names of three companies from Djibouti and Kenya were also provided to the Kuwaiti authorities for verification,” states the report.

They said most of the ships used to transport the consignment are Indian-flagged vessels with owners having told the monitoring group that they charter their vessels to middlemen and brokers.

The owners reportedly said that because the vessels’ captains do not retain bills of lading and certificates of origin (they are submitted to customs authorities in destination ports), they are unable to provide details of consignees or the cargo’s documentation.

However, the report says some owners have come out to confirm privately that they are aware falsified certificates of origin from Kenya and Djibouti have been carried alongside Somali charcoal on their vessels departing from Kismayu.

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