|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.