UN charcoal purchases enrich Al-Shabaab

October 8, 2012

Money Jihad has been reporting for a year on how charcoal sales in Somalia help fill the coffers of the terrorist group al-Shabaab (see prior coverage here and here).  The United Nations was one of the first entities to publicize this phenomenon.  Ironically, it is the U.N. that has turned out to be one of the larger institutional buyers of Somali charcoal.

How can you beat the jihadists if you’re funding both sides of the conflict?  This is an outrage.  Please read this important article that hasn’t received nearly so much attention as it should.  From the Telegraph on Sept. 24:

Somalia’s Islamist war chest being boosted by UN funds

The war-chest of Somalia’s al-Qaeda-allied Islamists is likely being boosted with United Nations funds used to buy charcoal from areas the terror group controls, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.

By Mike Pflanz, Nairobi

Al-Shabaab pays for weapons and fighters with the £800,000 a month it earns from charcoal sales and exports, now banned under a British-sponsored UN Security Council resolution adopted at the London Conference on Somalia in February.

The business has become the group’s “most lucrative source of income”, according to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

But the UN has since April been buying 52 tonnes of charcoal a week for the kitchens of peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu, and one Somalia expert said it was “highly unlikely” that the deal was “not at least indirectly benefiting” the terrorists.

The contract, worth close to $1 million annually, also directly spurs the destruction of southern Somalia’s last remaining tree cover, worsening conditions that cause drought.

A spokesman for UNSOA, the United Nations Support Office for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (Amisom), said he was “unable to confirm” that supplies did not come from Kismayo, al-Shabaab’s remaining stronghold.

African Union forces this week closed in on the port city ahead of an expected offensive to push the Islamists out. Senior commanders are said to have fled already, and 10,000 civilians have also left, UNHCR reported yesterday [FRI].

The Daily Telegraph has seen an UNSOA Purchase Order for $17,722.50 (£10,950) for 52,125kg of charcoal due for delivery on August 31, among the most recent of the deliveries.

It was to be sent to Ugandan and Burundian peacekeeping troops based at Mogadishu’s airport and its university. The two countries’ soldiers make up the majority of Amisom’s 17,000-strong contingent in Somalia.

“It’s highly unlikely that Shabaab will not at least indirectly benefit,” said Andrews Atta-Asamoah, Horn of Africa analyst for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa.

“It’s not possible for that much charcoal to come only from areas the government controls. Even if Shabaab is not directly selling the charcoal, once money enters the system in south-central Somalia, Shabaab always takes its share.”

The amount of charcoal being produced to fulfil the contract would mean traders felling at least 250 trees a week, meaning more than 5,500 trees have been destroyed since the contract started, according to ecologists’ estimates.

Deforestation for charcoal burning is seen as one of the major causes of drought, which has left 2.1 million Somalis still in need of international help to find enough food to eat each day. Last year, parts of the country were struck by famine.

February’s Security Council Resolution 2036 states that “charcoal exports from Somalia are a significant revenue source for al-Shabaab and also exacerbate the humanitarian crisis”. The agreement banned UN member states from buying charcoal from Somalia.

Domestic trade within the country is however exempt, meaning that the UNSOA order is legal under the resolution’s terms.

“Our delivery does not contravene the ban,” Simon Davies, UNSOA’s spokesman in Nairobi, told The Daily Telegraph.

“Nonetheless, we are acutely aware of the negative impact of the trade in charcoal and have been pro-actively working to transition Amisom to other fuels. All Amisom contingents are traditionally used to cooking with charcoal and we have had to make a deliberate effort to change that.”

It was the supplier’s responsibility to source the charcoal, and “I’m unable to confirm whether this charcoal comes from Kismayo or not”, Mr Davies added.


  1. […] addition to imposing zakat on commodities such as charcoal and sugar, and extorting funds from Dahabshiil wire service, al-Shabaab may be receiving support […]

  2. […] prior Money Jihad coverage of how the Somali charcoal trade benefits al-Shabaab here, here, and […]

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