Illegal charcoal trade in Somalia comes back to haunt Kenya as UN flatly rejects Kenya's proposal to list Al-Shabaab as a terrorist group

Al-Shabab Militia group
  • On Wednesday, the Security Council rejected Kenya’s request to designate Al Shabaab a terror group under Resolution 1267, which includes groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIL.
  • Accusations against Kenya’s alleged participation in illegal charcoal trade in Somalia, that has been Shabaab’s mainstay, alongside piracy came back to haunt the country and hurt its bid.
  • Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau expressed disappointment at the decision.

Kenya has suffered a big blow in its fight against terrorism after the United Nation Security Council rejected the country’s argument to place Al-Shabaab in the same league as Al-Qaeda and Isis much to Kenya’s surprise.

On Wednesday, the Security Council rejected Kenya’s request to designate Al Shabaab a terror group under Resolution 1267, which includes groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIL.

Accusations against Kenya’s alleged participation in illegal charcoal trade in Somalia, that has been Shabaab’s mainstay, alongside piracy came back to haunt the country and hurt its bid.

Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau expressed disappointment at the decision.

“We are disappointed because it seems unconscionable that any country, least of all a country that is in the UN Security Council and that has lost its citizens in the terror attacks of the Al- Shabaab, would not wish to see all necessary measures brought to bear on this hideous organisation,” said Kamau.

Kenya abandoned at the international stage

Somalia, joined the United States, France, Belgium, Germany, Kuwait, and Poland in refusing to buy into Kenya’s argument and called Kenya’s suggestion this time as “unjustified” and suggested the country had failed to stop the illegal charcoal trade that had been Shabaab’s mainstay, alongside piracy.

Mr Abukar Dahir Osman, Somalia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, while referring to various UN Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia reports which charged that the Kenya Defence Forces, who are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, had collaborated with militants to continue exporting charcoal using the Port of Kismayu, claimed Al-Shabaab can be tamed through existing UN Security Council resolutions, as long as there is regional cooperation on it.

“We urge the Kenyan government to implement existing Security Council resolution 751 targeting AS (Al-Shabaab), including the ban on illegal charcoal trade in Somalia, which is the lifeline of the AS to finance its operations in the region,” he wrote on his Twitter page on Wednesday night.

Kenya and Somalia currently not seeing eye to eye

Kenya and Somalia are currently locked in a bitter dispute over a 100,000-square-kilometre marine territory with potential oil and gas deposits in the Indian Ocean with both countries claiming ownership over it which might explain Somalia’s reluctance to support Kenya in its bid.

The conflict recently played out in the public after Kenya recalled its ambassador to Mogadishu, Lucas Tumbo, and ordered Somalia’s envoy in Nairobi, Mohammed Muhamud, to leave, after Somalia allegedly auctioned off oil and gas reserves in disputed maritime territories.

US humanitarian agencies and former diplomats were especially vocal in opposing Kenya’s bid saying such designation would “criminalise humanitarian aid.”

Admitting “surprise” at the decision, Mr Kamau said Kenya will continue to fight Al-Shabaab “using all the means necessary and available to it, including the currently existing sanction regimes that we have fought for previously and that are in force within the UNSCV counter-terrorism regime.”

2nd time unlucky 

This was the second time Kenya was fronting the proposal after the first bid failed in 2014 on a veto from the United Kingdom.

The decision means Kenya and the region will now continue to deal with Shabaab using sanctions that were aimed at controlling civil conflict in Somalia, and not those meant to tackle terrorism, despite loopholes that could allow militants to prosper.

Al Shabaab are currently administered under a different sanctions regime under UNSC Resolution 751.

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