NAIROBI – The United Arab Emirates has restarted Somali charcoal exports years after the United found it to be funding militant groups in Somalia and placed it under embargo, UN, Somali officials say.
According to the officials, the secret resumption of the charcoal export started on Wednesday as a bulk ship carrying 1700 bags of charcoal sailed from Burgavo, a coastal town in Lower Jubba region to Dubai.
The two-steel-hulled ship chartered by two Dubai-based Somali businessman called Abdinasir Ali Addon and Bashir Dhere has reportedly left the town under a heavy escort by local Jubbaland forces that sealed off the area during the loading process to avoid detection, according to a UN official who was following the matter.
However, the development comes one week after the leader of the Kenya-backed regional administration of Jubbaland has accused Somali government of siding with Qatar against the United Arab Emirates, affirming his administration’s support to the UAE.
The two businessmen behind the new charcoal export movement are reported to be close allies of Mr. Madobe who continues to maintain a secret relationship with the UAE.
UN officials were not available for comment on the development.
The illegal charcoal exports were worth at least $250 million in 2013 alone with a third of shipments linked to al Shabaab, according to the Somalia-Eritrea Monitoring Group, which oversees compliance with U.N. sanctions on the two countries.
For years, UAE has used proxy networks in Somalia including regional administrations in a bid to pressure the central government to abandon its neutral stance towards the Gulf crisis, an attempt which the government has since resisted.
The United Nations Security Council had banned charcoal exports from Somalia in February 2012 in a bid to cut off funds for al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-affiliated group fighting for control of Somalia and enforcing strict sharia law in areas it occupies.
But multiple attempts to convince Middle eastern countries to stop the illegalized Somali charcoal imports have since proved difficult, with dhows and ships continue transporting charcoal from Somalia in violation of the UN resolution.
Al-Shabab militants, who control portions of southern Somalia, have long relied on charcoal exports to Gulf Arab states to fund their operations and pay their recruits.