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: aje.me/magazine and on Android devices: aje.me/ajemagazine. It's a terrific platform, especially for photos.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Journalism in Somalia: booming but beset by dangers

My second article for African Arguments was published today:

Journalism in Somalia: booming but beset by dangers

MOGADISHU— Mohamed Abdi Warsame’s hand shakes as he places it on my knee. “Some say my brother was killed over a woman,” he says. “That’s not true. He was killed for the sake of the truth.”

After the evening prayer on October 21, 2012, Mohamed’s brother, a local journalist named Yusuf Warsame, was leaving a mosque in Mogadishu’s Medina neighborhood. As he made his way to a pharmacy to find relief for an earache, two pistol-wielding men stepped out of a doorway and shot him multiple times in the back.

Mohamed was turning a corner onto the same street when the shots rang out; close enough to witness the gunmen fleeing the scene.

“I saw them with my own eyes,” he says. “But I was too far away to gaze on their faces.”