Al-Shabaab becomes sugar daddy

June 9, 2013

Terrorist organization financed by sugar exports

Sacks of sugar on Africa's east coast

Somalis off-loading sugar sacks

The UN reported in 2011 that at least $15 million of al-Shabaab’s annual revenues come from the charcoal and sugar trade.  The UN also found that networks of Somali businessmen operating in Dubai have been able to manage the trade cycle between sugar and charcoal for the benefit of al-Shabaab.  As many as 10,000 bags of sugar are being smuggled from Somalia into Kenya each day.

The sugar trade has become even more important to al-Shabaab after losing control last year of the port in Kismayo and the lucrative harbor taxes it imposed there.  From Sabahi (hat tip to @watcherone):

Sugar imports from Somalia fund al-Shabaab, Kenyan officials say

By Bosire Boniface in Garissa

April 24, 2013

Al-Shabaab operatives posing as traders are doing business with Kenyan merchants as a way to fund the militant group’s terrorist activities, according to Garissa County Commissioner Mohammed Maalim.

“The trade proceeds, especially from the sugar imports, are going to the coffers of the militant group,” Maalim said April 15th during a town hall meeting with local merchants at the Garissa Guest House. “The militants are relying on the trade to sponsor their violence.”

The import of Somalia-produced sugar is worth an estimated 100 billion shillings ($1.2 billion) annually, according to Garissa County Development Officer Kenneth Rutere, but much of it is not declared to Kenyan customs officials, making it the country’s largest illicit market.

According to the Kenya Sugar Board, the industry regulator, Kenyans consume 800,000 tons of sugar annually, but domestically produce only 500,000 tons.

To meet demand, more than 50,000 bags are imported daily into the north-eastern region from Somalia, some of which is smuggled in illegally, Rutere told Sabahi.

Weapons smuggled in sugar sacks

Maalim said government investigations revealed that al-Shabaab ventured into the sugar trade after it lost control of Kismayo in September, thereby losing its steady stream of revenue raised through taxing goods at the port.

Investigations also revealed that weapons are being smuggled into Kenya in the sugar sacks, he said.

“Some of you are being used [unknowingly] to bring these explosives and guns that are fostering terror in Garissa town,” Maalim told local merchants, adding that the Kenyan government is monitoring the activities of some traders due to suspected links to al-Shabaab.

Some local merchants are unaware that they are dealing with al-Shabaab militants in the sugar trade, Maalim said, while others willingly trade with them. He urged business owners to be conscious of the country’s security while making purchases.

“Kenya has its own sugar-producing companies in the western region. The traders should place their orders from our local companies for the products until we stabilise our security,” he told Sabahi…

Ali Mohammed Hassan, a 45-year-old trader in Garissa who imports sugar and other foodstuffs, said he had no reason to suspect his business associates of illegal activity in Somalia, and the revelation that the traders could be funding al-Shabaab activities came as a shock.

“With the revelations, I will be careful because I want to transact clean business devoid of shedding anyone’s blood or taking lives,” he said.


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

  3. […] Imposing taxes on businesses is a common al-Shabaab tactic. They do it on the charcoal supply chain, the telecommunications sector, the remittance industry, etc.  Sugar and charcoal tax rates are often based on the rate set for zakat in the Koran:  2½ percent.  Money Jihad has previously covered how lucrative the sugar trade has been for al-Shabaab here. […]

  4. […] sugar smuggling business that profits al-Shabaab across the border in Somalia.  (See here and here for prior coverage of al-Shabaab’s sugar business.)  The surprising thing about this report […]

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