The Kenya Defense Forces yesterday disputed allegations its soldiers are involved in charcoal smuggling in Somalia.
The charcoal trade generates major income for al Shabaab.
KDF spokesman Col David Obonyo rejected as untrue the UN Security Council’s Somalia and Ethiopia Monitoring Group’s report that KDF is involved in export and import of charcoal from and into Somalia.
He said it [the report] is similar to the one the group has been making “with a little variation in wording every year around the same time since 2012”.
Obonyo said the KDF is deployed in the only 150km of Somalia’s coastline.
He said the SEMG report does not specify sectors where the charcoal trafficking takes place and who is managing those ports. The group did not visit those areas, he said.
“KDF is not in charge of the management of port operations in Kismayu. They are under the Somali Federal Government and Jubaland State authorities,” Obonyo said.
“KDF is not in Somalia to do business, but to enforce Amisom’s mandate. We are in Somalia to ensure safety and security of the Somali people. Kenya has made a lot of sacrifices to liberate Somali people.”
The UN banned the charcoal trade in Somalia in February 2012 to deny al Shabaab revenues. This was after it emerged the charcoal trade was generating major income for the al Qaeda-linked terror group.
Kenyan soldiers overpowered al Shabaab in Kismayu in September 2012 in the offensive Operation Sledge Hammer in which they dethroned the militants and seized control of the coastal town.
But Obonyo said the Kenyan troops were replaced by those from Siera Leone, who later left and were replaced by those from Burundi and Ethiopia, and the Family Police Unit from Nigeria.
SEMG has deplored the continued charcoal trade through Somali ports controlled by Amisom.
The SEMG report expresses concern that the charcoal trade still provides significant funding for the militia. It urged the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to continue its work, with the Federal Government of Somalia.