Thursday, April 9, 2015

SEMG armed groups expert

In late January I was appointed the armed group experts on the UN Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). The SEMG is a Security Council investigative panel that monitors and reports on sanctions violations in both Somalia and Eritrea. I'm immensely excited to be a part of the Group, which plays a very significant role in the peace-building and state-building process in Somalia.

However, that means I'll be taking a hiatus from journalism/ blogging for some time. Be sure to catch the SEMG's final report, which will be published in October. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sugar and the Shabaab: smuggling, security, and the Kenyan borderlands

50kg sugar sacks in Ifo, likely smuggled in via Somalia
© Liban Rashid 2014

Charcoal exports from Kismayo, largely to Gulf countries, constituted the principal source of al-Shabaab revenue before the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) seized the port in September 2012. Yet the less well-known, reverse side of the charcoal trade – in terms of the direction the goods are moving – is the movement of processed sugar from Somalia into Kenya, a consequence of the Kenyan government’s exorbitant tariffs on sugar imports.

Information provided to me by a regional intelligence source, dating to early 2011 – before al-Shabaab was driven out of Kismayo by the KDF – depicted a sophisticated sugar smuggling network with links to the Kenyan political elite. Through cross-border co-operation with al-Shabaab-linked brokers in Dhobley, Somalia, the smuggled sugar crossed the border to Kenya at Liboi and passed through the Dadaab refugee camps before making its way to the regional hub of Garissa, and then onwards to wholesale markets in Nairobi. The intelligence source speculated that it was likely the KDF had “tentacles” in the business, having taken over control of the Dhobley-Kismayo road from al-Shabaab.

An Unnatural Divide: the full article

Monday, November 3, 2014

An Unnatural Divide

Last month I travelled to the Somalia-Kenya border with photojournalist Will Swanson (you can see some of his photos above) to report for Al Jazeera Magazine. Read all about economic collapse, sugar smuggling, and al-Shabaab on Kenya's rugged frontier, in the Borders (Part II) issue.

Download the issue (you need a smartphone or tablet) via iTunes: and on Android devices: It's a terrific platform, especially for photos.