EXCLUSIVE: Diving Deep Into The KDF Charcoal And Sugar Trade In Somalia


A cartel of powerful top military and political figures use the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) as their pawns. While news outlets reported that the incursion into Somalia and the capture of the Kismayo port was to fight Al Shabaab, its strange that it has not been handed over to the Somali government yet. An entry point of imported sugar and contraband goods, an exit point of charcoal and a source of billions of Kenya shillings.

Journalists for Justice (JFJ), a project of the International Commission of Jurists took on a dangerous project in the years before 2015. A team of researchers went on the ground and behind the scenes to find out why the KDF were in Somalia. In their report and in the words of locals, ' Local journalists and businessmen in Kismayo also told JFJ researchers that “everyone knows they came for the port”.'

Years after entry in Somalia, there is no battle to be fought. The army has set up camps in Kismayo and all they do is to man the trade at the port.

Workers at the port in Kismayo told JFJ that around 230 trucks of 14 tonnes each leave Kismayo for Kenya, around 3000 tonnes a week. These numbers were corroborated by journalists, traders in  Dadaab and Dhobley, and drivers at both locations, accounting for the hundreds of trucks crossing the
border at Liboi and Amuma and arriving in the Dadaab camps each month. JFJ examined the trade at key points: Kismayo, Dhobley, Liboi, Amuma, Dadaab and Garissa. 

It would seem that the sporadic attacks on Kenya are just normal business and a necessary evil according to the report.

Since Kenya invaded Somalia in October 2011, there has been a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks inside its borders. If Operation Linda Nchi really was intended to destroy alShabaab as then President Kibaki claimed, it has been a spectacular failure. Over 400 Kenyans have died in Kenya at the hands of the terror group since 2011
Moreover, it is an economy that thrives on insecurity. Stability and the proper functioning of law and order, regularized border crossings and lawful taxation would pose a greater threat to the circular trade than anything else. It is a textbook definition of a conflict economy in that war is more profitable (for a select and powerful few) than peace. 

As details emerge of the masterminds and the planning of the 14 Riverside attack that happened on 15th January 2019, the sheer amount of money that passed through Kenyan systems into Somalia raises questions on who is behind all this. A prominent politician in Kenya has been quoted threatening to expose the financiers of Al Shabaab. This means that at least in the upper echelons of Kenyan society, it is clearly known who is sponsoring this war.

The profits made by KDF as at 2015 are mindboggling, we can only guess the amounts made now;

KDF and Jubaland forces control the Kismayo port. KDF and Jubaland officials levy a
tax of $2 per bag on imported sugar, an income of around $250,000 a week, or $13 million a year. Al-Shabaab taxes the trucks as they leave Kismayo at the rate of $1,050 each, (yielding an income similar to KDF, around $230,000 a week, or $12.2m a year). At Dhobley, the Jubaland administration collects a tax of Ksh60,000 per truck. To cross the border, the truck owners pay the KDF network Ksh60,000 per truck and then a further Ksh60,000 to the police in Dadaab. 

That the KDF, Al Shabaab and local government are all in this shows the extent of the rot in the system and the grim future it holds for Kenya. Worse still, human rights violations go hand in hand with this business.

After the attacks on the bus and the mine in Mandera, Deputy President Ruto claimed that air strikes had killed “over 100 militants” at a training camp. However, the District Commissioner of Mandera town told Somali radio station Bar Kulan that jets had instead killed scores of livestock and one civilian. This is closer to the picture that emerged from JFJ interviews.  


Before the business started, the leaders of the military had to make sure that all senior officials were on board and in support of the shady deals. If you were not willing to conduct yourself in that manner, you were removed.

He, and another senior KDF staff at the rank of general, independently corroborated the claim that the commander of KDF troops in Kismayo, Brig. Koipaton, collects the revenue on behalf of the KDF network in Kismayo. The senior KDF officer alleged that [the former commander], “Brig Ngere didn’t sing [the network’s] tune, he was replaced by a junior officer – Koipaton. Koipaton has risen very fast (this is rare). He works closely with [the KDF network] and Madobe. He is in charge of everything. They are involved in charcoal, sugar, clearly, just like other deals, and he deposits [the network’s] cut overseas.

 Over 67% of the smuggled sugar that enters Kenya comes in through Somalia (Kismayo). As a result, the flooding of cheap imported sugar has killed the local sugar industries. It is so bad that the sugar you use in your tea, although branded in a famous sugar factory name, may not be from that particular factory. Fraudulent businessmen pack the smuggled sugar into local brand names and sell it to wholesalers at ridiculous prices.

Sources say that some militant attacks have just been allowed to happen so that Kenyans divert their attention from more pressing needs. It's also sad that this report was not as extensively covered by Kenyan media to tell the truth.

Here is the full report.

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