At the moment the Iranian vessel ARZU is loaded with illegal charcoal
inside Kismayu harbour and under the watchful eyes of the Kenyan KDF
troops and those charcoal traders, whom they let into the sealed off
and protected zone under their command. The often cross-flagged
vessel ARZU is destined for Ajman in the UAE, which would make the
United Arab Emirates a co-conspirator, if it would allow the ship with
contraband from Somalia into their waters.
Observers are wondering where the navies are. Especially the US-led
Task Forces 150/151 group has a specific mandate and order to stop any
smuggling (e.g. human or drug trafficking, arms smuggling and
transport of any contraband) and to control the sanctions under which
Somalia as well as the Iran were placed. All the other navies, who
claim to sail under UN mandate along the Somali shores and in Somali
waters also should at least enforce the UN embargo.
These are the charges under which the present actions in Kismayu must
be investigated and judged:
- Violation of the UN embargo by AU forces and traders
- Violation of Somali Government charcoal export ban by the present
Kismayu governance under Ahmed Madobe. The renewed decree concerning
the export ban makes it clear that there can be no exemption from the
general ban of any charcoal export as stipulated by valid Somali Law
already and in general.
- Violation of the Somali decree stipulating that Kismayu is at
present NOT a port of call for any foreign vessel coming to Somalia.
The Somali Government had made it already clear that any foreign
vessel, which wants to sail to Kismayo has to report to Mogadishu
- Violation of international sanctions against Iran (by cross-flagged
Iranian vessels working as blockade breakers)
- Proactive support of breaking the embargoes and criminal smuggling
of contraband from Somalia.
In the Xeer, the traditional law of Somalia, those forest people, who
left their homes to collect forest products, used to apply the rules
of combatants at war. In fact their rules were meant to create strong
solidarity amongst the group and they applied these rules whenever
they left their settlements for collecting products in the forest. Is
that what the new “administrators” of Kismayu are afraid of? And are
the al-Shabaab groups trying to use now these “forest-combatants”
against foreign troops, who apparently now must appear to them to have
“stolen” their lucrative contraband trade?
But with Somalia evolving into an independent state, modern
environmental and land-rights laws already replaced the self-governed
legal framework for those ravaging groups and a stronger sense of
communal stewardship for the rangelands and forests of a clan or
Alas and already under the Siyad Barre government, powerful forces -
in those days from the Socialist Party, which garnered income from the
charcoal trade of their unionists – tried to circumvent the general
charcoal export ban provided for by Somali Law. In those days the
biggest threat came from Saudi Arabia, which wanted to import gigantic
masses of Somali charcoal in attempts to use it plowed under the soil
to revive large stretches of sandy desert. But all Somali governments
resisted against this megalomaniac nonsense, though large amounts of
money had been offered. If those Somali leaders hadn’t stood strong
Somalia already today would be completely denuded and a total desert
like we find it in the Rub al Kali of Saudi Arabia just across the
The “social” argument is by the way as old as independent Somalia: “We
will stop making charcoal, if you give us other income generating
jobs!” was the Mantra of those involved already in the 60′s, who just
wanted to continue in the lucrative theft of the trees from communal
Interestingly it was the BBC, who first started to shed crocodile
tears with the “poor charcoal traders”. But this is no wonder, given
the fact that the British have a long history of leading local people
to their own demise. The almost total deforestation of the northern
Somali rangelands of high-value pencil cedars during the colonial
times and with the “help” of British sawmills is only one example.
The same “poor-man’s” argument is also often used in Kenya, where all
charcoal making – except from specifically grown trees on private
wood-lots – is meanwhile strictly forbidden. But also there the menace
and illegal trade continue with vast stretches of Acacia woodlands
having disappeared already. Interestingly the price of charcoal in
Lamu, Malindi and Mombasa has risen over the recent weeks from 300-400
KSh per large bag (approx. < $6 US) to 600-800 KSh (approx. < $10 US)
and local observers state that powerful Kenyan brokers are gearing up
to revive the charcoal import from Somalia again.
None of the Somali or foreign businessmen, who get rich by robbing the
natural heritage of Somalia, has ever engaged or invested in
tree-growing and none of them has been harvesting what they have sown.
All engage in the continuous desertification of Somalia. If they had
engaged in tree-farming in the 60′s when the “social argument” was
invented – all the present “poor charcoal makers” in the bush of
Southern Somalia would have proper income today on tree-farms
producing the black gold. But under the disguise of “civil strife” and
war it is easier to rob instead of properly produce in a sustainable
It is clear: The illegal charcoal-makers and their masters, who
invested to buy and trade the contraband, know the law and knew the
risk they face if their illegal activity would be stopped. The
charcoal mountains amassed at the ports and outlets of Southern
Somalia therefore must be confiscated and should be distributed free
of charge to the needy in the IDP camps across Southern Somalia.
Any charcoal export from Somalia must be stopped once and for all.
All those, who break the laws and sanctions, including AU troops, and
all those who utter death-threats against the defenders of the natural
heritage of Somalia or incite the charcoal makers to resort to
violence against the rule of law and the new Somali government must be
severely punished, if Somalia is ever to escape from vicious cycle of
illegal business and oppression of local communities.
The vast majority of Somalis does not want to live in a denuded
Somalia, bare any trees and with destroyed ecosystems and water
regimes. These are the forces, who have to be mobilized first to stand
up against those who destroy their natural heritage and the future of
their children. And the international community must help by e.g.
assisting with large re-afforestation projects, but at least by NOT
allowing their own forces to become accomplices in ecocide.