Somalia: Charcoal Exports to Continue, Despite Funding Terrorist Group

Published: 15 November 2012


Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said Thursday that he would allow charcoal exports from the country to resume despite evidence that the trade is financing the region's Al-Qaeda allied terrorist group Al-Shabaab.

The statement was a reversal on his previous position, which fell in line with a ban imposed February by the United Nations Security Council that forbade countries from buying charcoal from Somalia.  The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia had announced its own ban on production back in December, 2010.

The UN's decision prompted dismay from some corners, where opponents protested that the ban most harshly punished innocent Somali residents who work in the charcoal trade, since they are left with no option for income. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab operatives can use their vast resources to skirt the law and maintain revenue flows. Citing the thousands of sacks of charcoal now sitting untouched at trade ports, the African Union earlier this month lamented the wasted revenue they represent. It stressed that Somalia needs to find a solution that won't further impoverish the country's people.

After having reportedly met with local Somalis himself, the President appears to agree. "We considered the logical requests of the Somalis," he said Wednesday, according to a Reuters report. "Somalis have invested cash and sacrificed time with this charcoal."

Al-Shabaab controls three main trade ports used to export charcoal from Somalia, and a leaked internal report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea (SEMG) in June estimated that the Islamist militant group's control of those ports means they collect more than $25 million each year in fees and taxes associated with the charcoal trade. The report called charcoal "al-Shabaab's single most important source of revenue."