Al-Shabaab continues to reap substantial revenues from charcoal smuggling in southern Somalia despite the presence of African Union military bases in the area, a United Nations team reported on Wednesday.
Those installations at the ports of Kismayo and Buur Gabo are maintained by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers operating under the auspices of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), the UN team noted in an earlier report.
UN monitors were “not assisted by Amisom” when they attempted to inspect charcoal stockpiles and port facilities at Kismayo in July, the new report points out.
Shabaab makes at least Sh774 million ($7.5m) from “taxation” at checkpoints in the Middle Juba and Lower Juba regions, according to the analysis by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.
Due in part to these charcoal-related profits, Shabaab “generates more than enough revenue to sustain its insurgency,” the monitors say.
The regional Jubbaland administration is also said to profit from the charcoal trade, which is prohibited by UN Security Council resolutions.
“Investigations by the Group have determined that these illicit charcoal exports have been taxed by the Jubbaland administration at an average rate of more than Sh516 ($5) per bag, generating more than Sh1.54 billion ($15m) in annual revenue for Jubbaland,” states the report reviewed by the Security Council on Wednesday.
With an estimated three million bags of charcoal smuggled last year from Somalia, the total value of the illicit trade is put at Sh15.48 bn ($150 million_ annually, based on a wholesale price of Sh5,160 ($50) per bag in the United Arab Emirates.
Criminal networks based in Dubai, the UAE and Kismayo garner a large share of that sum, the UN group notes.