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KDF on the spot over Shabaab charcoal exports in Somalia

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Kenya Defence Forces units assigned to the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) are failing to enforce a ban on charcoal exports by Al-Shabaab, a team of United Nations monitors charges in a new report.

Shabaab earns at least $10 million (Sh1 billion) a year by shipping charcoal from ports in southern Somalia where KDF units are stationed, the UN panel says.

SH200 A BAG

“Amisom, whose Kenyan Defence Forces contingents remain deployed at the ports of Kismayu and Buur Gaabo, has neither assisted the Somali authorities in implementing the charcoal ban nor facilitated Monitoring Group access to charcoal exporting ports,” the report states.

Poor implementation of the five-year-old UN Security Council ban “enables Al-Shabaab financing and undermines counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency efforts in Somalia,” the report observes.

As an example of Shabaab’s continuing ability to thwart counter-insurgency efforts, the UN team cites an attack on a KDF base at Kulbiyow on the Kenya-Somalia border that killed at least 67 Kenyan soldiers.

Shabaab militants 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 allegations of KDF non-compliance 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 illegally shipped from the port of Kismayo.

SH1.2BN

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 resulted 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.

In another worrisome sign of an increasingly diversified Shabaab arsenal, FBI laboratory analyses have shown that the insurgents are now using an ingredient in fertiliser to make vehicle-borne bombs, the UN team says.

WEAPONS

“The potential use of home-made explosives by Al-Shabaab would allow the group to rely less on the process of harvesting explosives from munitions, which is slow and laborious,” the monitoring team points out.

Additional weapons are being illegally imported into Somalia via the country’s Puntland region aboard dhows sailing from Yemen and the Makran coast of Iran, the report finds.

At a meeting in September with UN monitors, “Iranian authorities strongly denied any state involvement in the shipment of weapons to Somalia,” the report notes.

Along with revenues from charcoal exports, Shabaab finances its operations partly through “taxes” it levies on vehicles traveling on roads it controls, the UN team says.

“Large trucks are usually taxed $1,000 Sh100,000), with receipts issued by Al-Shabaab to prevent double taxation at subsequent checkpoints,” the monitors recount.

TRADERS

Other monthly fees extracted by Shabaab range from $10 (Sh1,000) paid by market traders to as much as $70,000 (Sh700,000) paid by major companies, according to the report.

Somalia’s federal government has warned businesses against supporting Shabaab financially, the monitors note.

But because the government has only limited capacity to monitor such payments, the warning is unlikely to have much effect on Shabaab’s taxation of business interests, the report adds.

Federal institutions likewise remain “incapable of addressing pervasive corruption,” the monitors observe.

The electoral process earlier this year was treated by the country’s elite as another opportunity to “capture or maintain control over state resources in Somalia at the expense of peace and security,” the report asserts.

Sums of cash were handed out to electors choosing a president last February.

BRIBES

Other countries became involved in the vote-buying, with the United Arab Emirates said to have been particularly overt in making such bribes.

UAE representatives frequently summoned Somali regional administrators to meetings “where they were given cash to persuade their regional members of Parliament to vote for that country’s preferred candidate,” the report says.

The UN experts’ generally pessimistic assessment of the security situation in Somalia includes the finding that a faction of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has grown significantly during the past year.

ISIL loyalists in Somalia numbered no more than a few dozen in 2016 but the group now includes as many as 200 fighters, the report says.

“The ISIL faction has demonstrated increasingly sophisticated recruitment methods, largely targeted at disaffected members of Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia,” the UN team notes.

KENYA

Al Shabaab destroy Hormuud mast in Elwak

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Al Shabaab militants have destroyed a Hormuud communication mast located on the Somalia border town of Elwak.

Police say the militants were retaliating to earlier reports of locals communicating with Somalia security forces and the Kenya Amisom troops.

According to police sources, the AMISOM forces were collecting information from the residents in preparation for a medical camp that was set to take place in ELWAK next week.

The terrorists attacked the mask at 2 am on Saturday.

“The troops were just asking about the number of children available, the common ailments among the elderly and the number of expectant mothers but the militants accused us sharing information about their whereabouts.” an Elwak elder said.
The locals are aggrieved by the militants who in December also destroyed a water well in Lafey.

The well was sunk by the Kenya military troops to help them access water.

Many districts in Somalia are currently facing drought as the militants continue to make the lives of Somalis unbearable.

The terror outfit has in the recent past denied children and women access to humanitarian aid and even executed whoever they suspected of not cooperating with them.

On January 2, four security officers were killed in an attack in Mandera.

Two police reservists and an AP died instantly while another KPR was killed while being rushed to the hospital.

A senior police officer said the attackers waylaid the cops along the Elwak – Kitulo road.

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KENYA: 58 students have abandoned varsities to join terror groups

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At least 58 Kenyan students abandoned universities to join terrorist groups in Somalia, Libya and Syria over the last three years.

A government report seen by the Nation further says 14 of the students were recruited into the terror organisations last year while the rest joined earlier.

In other cases, recruited students were found out early and detained before they could leave the country.

The figure could be higher because the authorities have not established the fate of others who have been reported as missing persons.

A number of those who fled have since been killed either in combat or executed after falling out with their commanders.

For instance, Jared Mokaya Omambia, who left studies at Moi University to join al-Shabaab in Somalia, was shot dead by a firing squad after the terror group accused him of spying for the Kenya Government.
MEDICAL INTERNS

Farah Dagane Hassan, 26, and Hiish Ahmed Ali, 25, who were medical interns at Kitale Hospital as they continued with studies, were killed in United States air strikes in Sirte, Libya, where they had joined the Islamic State.

In the most prominent case, Abdirahim Abdullahi abandoned University of Nairobi Law School and joined al-Shabaab.

He was killed at Garissa University College after he led three other militants in gunning down 147 students in one of the worst terror attacks in Kenya on April 2, 2015.

Among the 54 listed in the government report, there are those held in safe houses where they are undergoing rehabilitation.

At the same time, security agents are grappling with the resurgent and increased al-Shabaab attacks in Lamu. The militia has turned the county into a playground, often launching explosive attacks on government installations, security personnel, locals and motorists; killing, maiming and destroying property.

TERRORISTS

The terrorists have caught security personnel involved in Operation Linda Boni unawares and left many dead.

Between May and November last year, more than 30 police officers were killed in attacks by the terror group. This year, the terrorists have resurfaced with fresh raids targeting security personnel and motorists using the Lamu-Malindi road.

Last week, the attackers raided Ishakani village, a day after killing a woman and injuring five police officers at Nyongoro on the Lamu-Malindi road.

Last Tuesday, tension was high at Ishakani village in Lamu East after more than 100 heavily armed insurgents took over the area and preached radical teachings to the residents.

They hoisted their flag at a deserted local police station before going back to their hideouts. Sources revealed that the attackers have also been conducting daily prayers at mosques in the area at will.

On Wednesday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i met security bosses from the region in Mombasa and assured the public that the government was on top of the situation. He said the government will crush the militants and that there was no cause for alarm.

CRIMINAL INCIDENTS

“I have not seen any cause for concern as it were. The isolated criminal incidents such as the one we had on Saturday are matters that we will deal with decisively as we move along because we have the willingness and focus,” Dr Matiang’i said.

And, speaking to journalists on Friday, Coast regional coordinator Nelson Marwa said the security committee was reorganising its operations to deal with the terrorists.

The government started rehabilitation in 2015 as one of the ways of tackling radicalisation and violent extremism among the youth. The report warns that “gone is the era where terrorist groups targeted vulnerable youths who were illiterate and from poor backgrounds. The changing face of terror has seen the recruitment and radicalisation of the most unlikely targets. The recent trend among the terror groups is the targeting of university students.”

It adds: “With globalisation and the paradigm shift in the digital world, terrorists have exploited social media, among other platforms, to lure university students. Through various portals put up by al-Shabaab, ISIS and other groups, propaganda is easily disseminated to students.

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Bring Kenyan troops home from Somalia

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On January 15, 2016, Kenyans reacted with anger and horror at the news that Al-Shabaab militants had attacked Kenyan troops at a military outpost in El Adde, southern Somalia.

The attackers claimed to have killed dozens of soldiers and captured scores of others, including their commander. To date, the Kenyan military has not released details of the attack, although some reports put the death toll at 100.

The El Adde attack raised serious questions about Kenya’s efforts in Somalia. Why is the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) still in Somalia? What are they trying to accomplish? Why was the outpost vulnerable? When will the troops come home?

The KDF first entered Somalia in 2011 on “Operation Linda Nchi”, aimed at securing the northeastern border with the Horn of Africa nation following a series of attacks on tourists and aid workers.

Until El Adde, things were going well for Kenya, with little violence. The KDF captured Kismayu port, a source of income for Al-Shabaab from charcoal trade and sugar smuggling into Kenya. Ironically, a United Nations report said the KDF was also involved in the illicit trade.

POLITICAL INFIGHTING

But the cost of Kenyan and Amisom efforts is staggering, with a heavy toll of African troops and Somali civilians. Although Amisom has kept a tight lid on its casualties, more than 4,000 soldiers are said to have been killed and thousands more wounded, making it the deadliest peacekeeping mission.

Due to lack of political progress on the ground, even the United States’ counter-terrorism efforts, billions of dollars in foreign aid and 28,000 AU soldiers from 11 countries are unable to impose order in Somalia. The Mogadishu central government is mired in political infighting over the spoils of foreign aid, factions and corruption.

The president of Somalia is holed up in a hilltop palace in the capital city — where a tenuous government exists that is unable to protect its people, administer justice and deliver basic services.

Al-Shabaab also exploits discontent among marginalised clans in the Shabelle River valley, who believe the US-trained, Al-Shabaab-infested, corrupt, one-clan-dominated Somali National Army (SNA) is using the fight against the Al-Shabaab to grab their fertile land. Although they don’t share the militants’ extremist ideology, they see them as defending their lands from State-backed clan militias.

CLAN MILITIA

But southern Somalia’s problems are not limited to Al-Shabaab. There is also small arms in the hands of clan militias and the second-generation of merchants of corruption and violence.

Moreover, the heavy-handed foreign meddling, including self-interested neighbours, impedes creation of a functioning, stable government. In fact, the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian incursion into southern Somalia midwifed the Al-Shabaab.

Then-President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga may have started the Somalia military mission on the wrong foot but President Uhuru Kenyatta has the opportunity to end it well. After all the Kenyan troops are accounted for, he should withdraw the KDF from Somalia in an orderly manner.

ATTACKS

The policy on Somalia is neither protecting the homeland nor serving Kenya’s interest. In fact, it has made border counties more vulnerable to attacks.

There is no compelling reason worth risking more Kenyan lives or treasure in Somalia’s clan-driven terrorism or dictating the political outcomes in the war-torn neighbouring country. It’s time to bring Kenyan troops home and let the Somali fight for their own country and destiny.

Mr Mohamed is founder and editor, Gubanmedia.com, a 24/7 online magazine of news analysis and commentary on the greater Horn of Africa region. aliadm18@gmail.com.

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