AL SHABAB, KILLERS OF PEOPLE AND KILLERS OF THE ENVIRONMENT
When Kenyan troops entered Somalia in hot pursuit of Al Shabab operatives, who had staged several abductions of foreign nationals from Kenyan territory and constantly engaged in cross border raids into refugee camps or against Kenyan military and security outposts, they found moon-like landscapes, bare of forests and trees.
While tropical forests, protected by law, extend on the Kenyan side of the common border with Somali right down to the Indian Ocean, across the frontier in Al Shabab controlled territory the cutting of trees for profit through charcoal exports exposed the level of moral, ethical and political corruption within the Al Shabab leadership. They clearly are ready to sacrifice not just human lives for their misguided concept of life under their draconian stone-age rule, but also show their contempt for the environment and long term ability of the land to survive, protect biodiversity and maintain natural balance. While across the East Africa region re-forestation is on the cards, to restore water towers and maintain suitable micro climates, in Somali, under Al Shabab (mis)rule, these aspects of global concerns clearly mean nothing, a dead giveaway of their bankrupt minds and visions, more so as the civilized world meets in Durban to discuss measures to combat climate change, while Al Shabab is engaged in measures to support and accelerate climate change.
Of course, these radicals, who regularly behead the innocent for as simple an offense as not wanting to fight for them, or are known to stone women to death for having been raped by members of their own militias and then daring to complain, have total disregard for environmental concerns, as became evident after Kenyan troops liberated large tracts of Somalia, formerly under Al Shabab occupation.
When the former pirate and militia haven of Ras Kamboni fell to the advance of the liberation forces, the full extent of the environmental destruction became evident, after more than 500.000 bags of charcoal, ready for export, were found in the harbour. Al Shabab reportedly extracted taxes from charcoal dealers to the tune of half a million US Dollars a month in Ras Kamboni alone, before allowing the essence and foundation of life and survival in the wider area namely the forests to be converted into wood fuels and exported to the Arabian peninsula where ready markets, knowingly or unknowingly, helped to finance the militias from Saudi Arabia over Yemen to the Gulf states of Oman, the UAE and beyond.
Benefitting not just from the proceeds of piracy, aka ocean terror, but also from the environmental destruction of Somalia on an unprecedented scale, raises the parallels with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which tacitly allow the production of drugs, to finance their ill intended activities there too.
Other ports en route to Kismayu are said to have equally large charcoal consignments in store, waiting to be exported, adding urgency to the coalitions growing demands to impose a total sea and air embargo on Somalia, to disrupt trade which benefits the militias by giving them income and economic clout.
Meanwhile have the stakes been raised though with the re-entry of Ethiopian troops into Somalia, a development predicted here when Kenya first crossed the border. The AU force, comprised of mainly Ugandan and Burundian troops, now coordinates their movement with their Kenyan and Ethiopian allies and troops loyal to the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu and are pushing from at least three fronts against the various militias and war lords to extend greater central control over the war-torn and lawless country.
However, there are emerging indications that this coordinated action has activated the covert support by the regime in Khartoum, which is rumoured to use a recently opened new road between North Sudan and Eritrea, incidentally financed by Qatar, to open a new supply line after the Eritrean ports have come under increased surveillance by members of the naval coalition. Eritrea itself has been reported by Kenya to the UN Security Council over allegations of having flown supplies to Al Shabab and in fact continuing to send supplies by sea and air in the face of an existing embargo. Ethiopia is also closely monitoring Eritrean proxy groups as well as their common border, and has used its latest entry into Somali to attempt and wipe out rebel bases inside Somalia, which have long been used to stage cross border raids, again allegedly supported by the Eritrean government, which has become an outcast regime in recent months and years.
The advances from all sides towards the Al Shabab capital of Kismayu is progressing at the moment, though hampered at times by heavy rainfall, leaving the militias in what hopefully is the final fight for their own lives. Staring at defeat on the battle field will likely be causing their attempted withdrawal by sea across to the Arabian peninsula where in particular in Yemen friends are ready to give them shelter and time to regroup. En route though will be members of the naval coalition waiting for them at sea as well as the eyes from the skies, which can be used to engage them and destroy them before reaching safe shores across the Gulf of Aden.
The question though, if Al Shabab is deliberately engaged in a policy of burnt earth to leave uninhabitable large tracts of land behind, should they as expected be driven into the ocean by the combined onslaught of coalition forces, will have to wait for an answer for some more time, while the evidence of their environmental crimes unfolds with every further mile the Kenyan troops push towards Kismayu. Watch this space.