Al-Shabaab’s embargo on Kismayo’s seaport
By Harar24’s Editorial team.
The once buzzing seaport of Kismayo is now almost abandoned. For more than two decades the seaport has been contested over by different warring factions from tribal warlord to Islamists due to the great revenue it brings in. But now that has all changed.
Workers here seem frustrated and complain that they haven’t received any payments for two months.
Businessmen say they can’t pay workers because Al-Shabaab has banned the exportation of charcoal. While the management of the seaport claim that Al-Shabaab is imposing this ban to put an embargo on the administration of Ahmed Madobe, which could’ve made millions of the charcoal trade despite the UN ruling it illegal. “Al-Shabaab just wants to put Ahmed Madobe in a tight spot, they themselves used to make money of charcoal when they were here” says Farah Hashi, who’s part of the management of the port. However Al-Shabaab denies and claims that the amount of trees being uprooted for the charcoal trade is intolerable.
Whether this move is to impose an embargo on Ahmed Madobe’s administration or Al-Shabaab’s care for nature is really besides the point, the question that arises here is how does Al-Shabaab have a monopoly of the charcoal trade and how does it have a say in what goes on in Kismayo?
Contrary to what is common belief, Al-Shabaab still controls large swathes of land, including large portions of the Jubba provinces and areas around & outside Kismaayo. It is these areas where the trees required for charcoal are located, which Al-Shabaab prevents people from cutting them down for exportation. In fact it was reported that many businessmen approached Al-Shabaab leaders in the Jubba regions to negotiate a deal on charcoal export, they even offered to pay large sums of money to have Al-Shabaab agree to the deal. When they failed, they requested Al-Shabaab to let them at least export charcoal that they have lying around; Al-Shabaab sternly refused and threatened to burn any vehicle they suspect of carrying charcoal that’s going to be exported.
Al-Shabaab also enforces this ban in territories directly under their control, such as the city of Baraawe. In fact many businessmen fled from the port city Kismaayo after it fell into Kenyan forces & Madobe’s militias’ hands to Baraawe, running away from the high tax rates imposed by the administration and hoping to continue their charcoal business in Al-Shabaab held Baraawe, but their dreams were shattered when Al-Shabaab imposed the ban.
We’ve been led to believe that Al-Shabaab’s finances are dwindling and that their economy would plummet after the takeover of their “economic hub” Kismaayo. Everybody in Somalia including Al-Shabaab is aware of the millions if not multimillions to be made from the charcoal industry, yet they still banned the charcoal trade in all areas under their control, and not just Kismaayo. If they were truly in dire need of finances would they have not used Baraawe’s port as a source of income?
Local Somalis and Somali analysts claim that those who were really interested in exploiting the charcoal exportation business were Ahmed Madobe and the Kenyan government and that their sole alliance was based on this. Apparently, their grand scheme was to split whatever revenue came in from the charcoal business and the money that was to be made from the seaport. Now that plan seems to have backfired and the Madobe administration instead of making money has to deal with angry businessmen, workers and locals from Kismayo.
There are no more ships coming to Kismaayo’s once thriving seaport and whether the port will return to its prosperous self remains a question.