Nairobi (AFP) – Kenya’s army is involved in a $400-million sugar smuggling racket in Somalia that also funds the Al-Qaeda militants it is supposed to be fighting, a report alleged Thursday.
Far from fighting the Shebab, Al-Qaeda’s East Africa affiliate, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) are, “in garrison mode, sitting in bases while senior commanders are engaged in corrupt business practices,” said the investigation by Nairobi’s Journalists for Justice rights group.
The report is based on months of research conducted in Somalia and Kenya, including interviews with serving Kenyan officers, United Nations officials, Western intelligence sources, sugar traders, porters and drivers.
The report also accused Kenyan troops of “widespread” human rights abuses — including rape, torture and abduction — and conducting air strikes “targeting crowds of people and animals” rather than the militant training camps it claims to bomb.
Kenyan army spokesman, Colonel David Obonyo, denied the allegations, insisting Kenyan soldiers were fighting hard as part of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
“We are not involved in sugar or charcoal business,” said Obonyo. “How can you sit down with Shebab one minute, and the next you are killing each other?”
Kenya’s army has denied repeated allegations of war profiteering since invading Somalia in 2011 after a string of kidnappings of tourists and aid workers blamed on the Shebab.
– Illicit business, terrorist blowback –
In the years since, Shebab attacks in Kenya have grown in number and scale — including the killing of at least 67 people at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 and the massacre of 148 people at a university in Garissa in April — with the militants saying the attacks are retaliation for the Kenyan military presence in Somalia and “war crimes” committed by Kenyan troops.
Persistent allegations of Kenyan military involvement in illegal business dealings in Somalia first emerged soon after the army occupied the southern port town of Kismayo in 2012, where it took control of a stockpile of millions of sacks of charcoal.
Successive reports by the UN Monitoring Group — which investigates terrorist financing and infringements of an arms embargo — have detailed the joint role of KDF, the Shebab and the local Jubaland administration in the illegal export of charcoal.
The most recent annual report, published last month, also referred to KDF involvement in the illegal sugar trade.
Journalists for Justice estimates the total value of illegal sugar smuggling to Kenya at between $200 million and $400 million.
Its investigators found that KDF taxes every sack of charcoal that leaves and every sack of sugar that arrives at Kismayo, earning an estimated $50 million (46 million euros) a year.
The Jubaland administration and the Shebab also tax charcoal and the sugar trucks driving from Kismayo to the Kenyan border at Dhobley-Liboi.
“The illicit conflict economy is benefitting both Al-Shebab and those ostensibly opposing them,” the report said.
The group accuses an unnamed “high ranking military official” of running a sugar smuggling network that enjoys “the protection and tacit cooperation” or Kenya’s political leaders.
“The corruption and human rights abuses undermine Kenya’s goals in Somalia, provide funds to Al-Shebab, and ultimately result in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Kenyans,” the report said.
Somaliland Head To Polls For Councillors And MPs On May 31, 2021 Last updated May 31, 2021
Voters in the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland are heading to the polls on May, 31 to choose their member of parliament for the first time since 2005.
Somaliland broke off from mainland Somalia after the regime of Siad Barre in 1991.
The 5.2 Million citizens of Somaliland will be making yet another stab at global recognition as some 1.3 million voters head to the polls to choose 82 members of parliament and 247 local councils.
An election whose measure of democracy Somaliland hopes to use in its quest to certify its sovereignty.
Somaliland’s three political parties in the polls are opposition politicians Faisal Warabe’s UCID, Wadani led by another opposition leader Abdirahman Erye and President Muse Bihi Kulmiye party.
The elections is observed by over a hundred international observers including Uganda’s former opposition leader, Kizza Besigye and ex-president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Korma.
”Our visit to the headquarters of the Somaliland National Electoral Commission left us with a good impression about the Commission’s preparedness to conduct peaceful and credible elections,” said in a Twitter post.
The elections are taking place in six regions of Somaliland, namely Awdal, Sahil, Marodi-Jeeh, Toghdeer, Sanaag and Sool.
3 Somalia Regional States Say No To Farmaajo Term Extension.
The regional state leaders of Southwest, HirShabelle, and Galmudug allied with incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo have opposed to any form of extension on Tuesday evening.
In a joint statement Galmudug and HirShabelle called for dialogue based on 17 September pact.
“We agreed that the country should hold elections as soon as possible and that any form of extension should be abolished,” read part of the joint statement by HirShabelle and Galmudug.
Southwest leader Abdiaziz laftagaren also opposed the term extension of the President just an hour after Galmudug and HirShabelle released a joint statement.
The move by the three regional states allied to President was welcomed by Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble who also instructed the military commanders to pull back forces to their locations and barracks.
“I would like to welcome the press statements made by Galmudug and HirShabelle federal states, ” PM Roboe said in a statement.
“I call on the FMS states of Puntland and Jubaland and Benadir region to fully commit to a peaceful process in our efforts to hold free and inclusive election, ” he added.
United Nations, United Kingdom, United States and opposition leaders including former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud commended the move by the regional states.
“The UN in Somalia noting statements by Qoorqqor, Ali Gudlawe, PM Roble and others recalls int’l partners position: consensus is vital for any electoral process; only 17 September model can be endorsed by FGS and all FMS; all parties must reject violence and resume dialogue, ” the United Nations said.
The development comes as families in some parts of Mogadishu fleed from their residences and moved to other district followings clashes.
Somali Gov’t Warns Al-Shabaab & ISIS Will Capitalize On SNA Faction Clashes.
Somali National Security Minister Hassan Hundubey has warned opposition groups to be wary of “unknown elements” including Al-Shabaab and Daesh who might seek to use the current crisis to inflict harm to the public.
Speaking to the media on Tuesday said that the government may take action to confront people with the “behaviour of militias” who are taking advantage of the situation.
“The government has enough troops to take control of the city. It is Ramadan, but more actions need to be taken to prevent it.” mr. Hundebey said.
”The reason the prime minister called for dialogue is that the government does not want the fighting to affect the residence,” he added.
The remarks by the interior minister come hours after the international partners strongly condemned the outbreak of violence in the capital.
“We are alarmed especially by the emerging fragmentation of the Somali National Army along clan lines, which detracts from its primary task of combating Al Shabab and protecting the Somali population. Use of security forces for the pursuit of political objectives is unacceptable” the statement read in part.
As tensions increase in Mogadishu following Sunday clashes between government soldiers and those who were against President Farmaajo’s two years term extension.