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KDF on the spot over Shabaab charcoal exports in Somalia



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.


“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.


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.


“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.


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.


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.


Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga agree to unite Kenyans



DAILY NATION — President Kenyatta on Friday morning held a surprise meeting with his political arch-rival and National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga at Harambee House in Nairobi.

It was the first time the two were meeting face-to-face since their fallout following the hotly contested August 8, 2017 General Election and October 26, 2017 repeat presidential poll that Mr Odinga boycotted.


The agenda of the meeting centred on how to unite and heal Kenya following a divisive General Election in 2017.

In a joint statement, Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga promised to work together to halt the country’s descent into the abyss following a divisive 2017 General Election.

They expressed their desire to aside their differences and reconstruct a nation that is responsive to the urgent need for prosperity, fairness and dignity for all Kenyans.

“There are changes in our system of governance for us to succeed and we have been in the process of reform to deal with them for the last 20 years,” Mr Odinga, who read the joint statement, said.

“Despite all the reforms, we continue to have a deep and bitter disagreement. Ethnic antagonism and divisive political competition have become a way of life.”


The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader said the political differences that have divided more than four Kenyan generations “must now come to an end”.

The Odinga and Kenyatta families have been fighting over the leadership of Kenya since independence.

On his part, Mr Kenyatta said they had agreed to put the interests of Kenya and Kenyans first.

They agreed to roll out a programme to effect their shared objectives revolving around war on corruption, ethnic antagonism and competition, lack of national ethos, inclusivity, devolution and divisive elections.

To implement the programme, the two formed a taskforce, co-chaired by lawyer Paul Mwangi and Ambassador Martin Kimani.

The two leaders urged Kenyans to overcome negative ethnicity “by acting on the understanding that elections on their own are not solution to our national challenges.”

All Kenyans, they said, should faithfully adhere to the Constitution and rule of law, and halt antagonism and tribal profiling.

The two leaders did not take any questions from journalists.

Conspicuously missing at Harambee House, in the heart of the capital Nairobi, were Mr Odinga’s Nasa co-principals Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetang’ula.

It was not immediately clear why they did not attend but cracks started emerging in the alliance recently after the three failed to attend Mr Odinga’s mock presidential oath.

The address and meeting come on the day US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to land in Nairobi on his tour of Africa.


Some Nasa and Jubilee party leaders welcomed the meeting and its resolutions, saying it would help heal Kenya.

Deputy President William Ruto took to Twitter to thank his boss and former boss on their agreement.

“Congratulations Pres Uhuru & Raila for being statesmen. You have risen to the moment for kenya and against hate, negative ethnicity and division,” he tweeted.

“The unity, stability and transformation of Kenya supersedes all other partisan interests. Wangwana mubarikiwe mpaka mshangae (gentlemen, be blessed abundantly).”

Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti said it was encouraging to see Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga bury the hatchet.

“The country will now be in the right shape now that the leaders can sit together despite the long and difficult political period we have had,” he said on the sidelines of a regional meeting in Kisumu.

“On behalf of the people of Homa Bay, I congratulate my party leader for taking this bold decision.

“It is a decision that ordinary people cannot take. We are very encouraged and motivated by this because it will open our country to better things. This is a welcome gesture.”


Mr Odinga and his co-principals in Nasa have been pushing for talks with Mr Kenyatta on electoral justice and reforms.

President Kenyatta had rejected their calls, saying he is only ready for dialogue on development and how to take Kenya forward.

Mr Odinga, who had vowed not recognise Mr Kenyatta’s election win and presidency, had threatened to lead a resistance movement against the Jubilee administration.

The Nasa leader, in a protest move and an open show of defiance, took a mock oath of office as the people’s president on January 30.

He insists he won the August 8, 2017 presidential poll but the figures were manipulated in Mr Kenyatta’s favour.

The president and the electoral commission dismissed his claims.

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Kenyan police seek to recover cache of arms after Al-Shabaab attack



MANDERA — Kenyan police have stepped up search for the Somali extremists who attacked two camps in northeast Mandera county and stole a huge cache of arms after the two raids in which five police officers were killed.

A police report released on Sunday said the terrorists blamed for sporadic attacks along Somalia border also looted the armory during the attacks, escaping with 16 G3 rifles, 26 AK47 rifles, 5 FN rifles, one F3 rifle, one M60 machine gun, one commando mortar 60mm and one base plate mortar 60mm.

The police report which was released two days after the raid by the Al-Shabaab militants says unknown number of ammunitions were also looted in the incident that left 12 police officers injured.

The police said on Friday they have launched a major manhunt for Al-Shabaab group leader that attacked two police camps in Mandera County.

Police spokesman Charles Owino said Jamaa Nuh Abdille, who fled to Somalia with others after the Friday dawn attack in Fino, was behind the killing of five police officers.

“We have since identified the leader of the group that carried out the attack as Jamaa Nuh Abdille who fled with others after the attack to Somalia and we are hot on their trail,” Owino said.
According to police report, the terrorists also destroyed a communication mast in the area affecting communication in general. Preliminary findings show the terrorists used Improvised Explosive Devises and other forms of explosives in the attack.

Northeastern Regional Coordinator Mohamud Saleh said they are pursuing various leads into the attack in efforts to recover the stolen ammunition.

“We have mobilized to ensure the area is safe,” Saleh said on Sunday. On Wednesday, security agents repulsed Al-Shabaab terrorists who tried to attack two police stations in Wajir.

Three suspects were arrested after they were chased by security forces from Ijara camps in the failed incident.

Police on the ground said the group had fired into the camps before officers there fired back in an exchange that lasted almost 20 minutes.

The area has been experiencing a rise of terror related attacks in the past months in which almost a dozen communication masts. Xinhua

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Somali refugees in Kenya between rock and hard place



NAIROBI, Kenya- Around half-a-million refugees stranded in Kenya face an impossible choice: either go home to al-Shabaab-wrecked Somalia under a controversial UNHCR “voluntary repatriation” program or stay and face massive debts accumulated due to food shortages at camps.

The dire situation can be witnessed firsthand at the Dadaab Refugee Complex in North Eastern province where over 486,460 refugees have taken asylum, according to figures released in January by The UN Refugee Agency.

Somalis living at the complex, which hosts thousands of makeshift refugee shelters, told Anadolu Agency the only reason they came to Kenya was because they were forced to flee the civil war back home and the threat of al-Shabaab militants who have killed many in the Horn of Africa region.

Dadaab is located 474 kilometers (294 miles) from capital Nairobi. It is an arid place with no paved roads but just swathes and swathes of barren fuscous-golden brown sand. Usually there is no sign of life en route to the camp except for lizards skittering across the sand. But sometimes people appear out of nowhere who can be seen herding camels. They are locals of the area who are mostly nomadic pastoralists and are always on the move.

As soon as one reaches the refugee complex, the picture of neglect and misery hits in the face as harshly as the scorching heat under which the extremely poor people live there.

Anyone who approaches the K1 block at the camp gets overwhelmed with requests from refugees scrambling over a barbed wire fence, urging for food, water, money or anything that one could spare for them.

Men, women and children can be seen squeezing into any spot that provides them with shade, others stare aimlessly into the distance deep in thought.

Tales of horror are in abundance here. One man said he arrived at the camp after spending three weeks in hiding after his family was killed in Somalia. Many others shared similar graphic realities.

Debts after food cuts

Several people at the camp told Anadolu Agency that after 30 percent food cuts were announced by the World Food Programme (WFP) for refugees living in Dadaab, they were forced to take loans to buy food and ended up accumulating “huge” debts of hundreds of dollars.

Many said it was because of these debts that they were now considering the recently-announced United Nations “Voluntary” repatriation program, which claims “to ensure the exercise of a free and informed choice and to mobilize support for returnees.”

Yassir Zahi said there is nothing voluntary about going back home and added he simply wants to run away from debt like many other refugees like himself at the camp.

“When the food cuts came, we were forced to accumulate debt since October 2017 because even the food was not enough for one person.

“Nothing is voluntary about me going home; I borrowed to buy food on credit and I am not alone; many have done the same, I owe the guy $300.

“All this I did to buy flour for porridge and milk and rice to feed my family; I used to sell flour but I ended up consuming it all with my family; they [money-lenders] came to ask for their money which I didn’t have and they threatened me and my family, especially my 16-year[-old] daughter,” Zahi said.

Through the voluntary repatriation program, the UN has created an avenue for people to clear off their debts “by returning back to my war-torn country,” he added.

In a 2018 report, Not Time to Go Home, Amnesty International also outlined how refugees were being coerced to go back to war at home due to the severe humanitarian crisis.

People left behind

Aamiina Osman, a 75-year-old woman, was found chained to a tree at the camp, attacking anyone who tried to come near her with a handful of sand.

Her adopted grandson Rashid Latif said she used to be happy and jovial but the terrible conditions at the refugee camp had destroyed the old woman.

“Her real family deserted her and went back to Somalia leaving her to fend for herself; they said that because she is too old she would slow them down once they got to war-torn Somalia; being deserted by the six family members made her partially mentally ill,” Latif said.

“On that night [they left], they chained four old women here [to the tree] and their families left; luckily, we found them, otherwise, they would have died; some went back to their homes but I adopted her [Osman] as my grandmother as I am an orphan and I take care of her,” he added.

Lack of funds

UNHCR’s Yvonne Ndege denied that refugees were being coerced to go back home. “The refugees are actually not ‘sent’ — they make a considered and informed decision to return or go to Somalia.

“There is a careful and detailed process that refugees who say they want to return follow before we help them return. That’s accompanied by up to date information from over 30 local organizations on the ground in Somalia constantly updating refugees on the situation back home. There are also what we call ‘go and see’ missions led by refugee leaders who go and see what’s going on in Somalia and come back with info for refugees considering return.”

She also told Anadolu Agency funding had not been adequate to help those wanting to return home.

“75,297 Somalis have voluntarily repatriated to Somalia since 2014, up to Dec 31, 2017; 35,407 returned in 2017 alone.

“There is a funding gap for the whole of Kenya. UNHCR support for refugees is only 32 percent funded, leaving a gap of 68 percent as of the 31st of December, 2017. We need $231.3M but only have $73.1M,” Ndege said.

Marco Lembo from the UNHCR said those who return get a “full package” in Somalia, which consists of conditional and non-conditional cash grants, including one-time payment of up to $1,000 per household and monthly grant of $200. He added that six months of food rations, supported by the WFP, are also given.

Somalia remains dangerous

Somali-based al-Shabaab militants continue to control cities in Somalia amid reports of them terrorizing women, men and children along the Horn of Africa region, which in turn causes massive displacement of people.

Guns have not been silenced in Somalia despite 25 years of conflict in the country. Experts repeatedly warn that going back to Somalia means returning to war and death.

But nonetheless, the Kenyan government has halted any new registration of Somali refugees and recently even disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs, creating an invisible wall to hundreds of thousands who desperately seek asylum. Kenya had also urged the UNHCR to expedite the voluntary return of refugees after shelving a decision to close the camp due to insecurity.

At Dadaab, most refugees who spoke to Anadolu Agency said al-Shabaab had played a major role in their decision to seek asylum in Kenya to begin with, but now things are so bad at their refugee complex they feel they have no option but to take the hard road back home despite the dangers.

Summing up the sentiments of thousands of refugees like himself, Zahi concluded: “Life here is a hellish nightmare, I tell you”.

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