Every year the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea publishes a report highlighting arms embargo violations in the Horn of Africa, and the danger these pose to internal and external security.
Given that Somalia has not had a fully-functioning government for more than 20 years, and the fact that some parts of the country are still controlled by Al-Shabaab, the task of monitoring these violations is fraught with difficulties.
However, the report usually reveals a complex web of connections between individuals and organisations that may be undermining the country’s efforts to gain political stability.
Like every year, this year’s report, which was released this month, makes allegations of gun smuggling, illegal trade, theft of public funds and human rights violations. These claims have now been vehemently dismissed by those who see mischief in the report’s findings.
When the Monitoring Group accused the former Transitional Federal Governments of not accounting for more than $130 million since 2000, political analyst Abukar Arman responded by saying that the UN had no moral authority to question the transitional governments given that most UN agencies are themselves unable to account for the billions of dollars in aid they have given to Somalia in the last two decades.
The new Somali Government claims that the report is based on gossip and hearsay. It has requested the UN Security Council to appoint an independent adjudication panel for future Monitoring Group reports so that it has an opportunity to respond to such allegations.
The UN Monitoring Group has acknowledged that “a culture of denial and secrecy” exists within many UN agencies, “which leads to opaque reporting about programme implementation”.
It further notes that “as a consequence of both remote management by aid agencies in Nairobi and the culture of ‘gatekeepers’, diversion of humanitarian assistance by third parties, as well by staff and partners of aid organisations” is common and poses a challenge to the provision of humanitarian assistance.
However, between the accusations and counter-accusations lie some uncomfortable truths. What no one can deny is that public financial management in Somalia remains chaotic and unregulated.
The government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has inherited a country with few functioning institutions and a dysfunctional regulatory system, which had led to the informalisation of public finances.
The country’s ad hoc revenue collection system, for instance, at its ports, (which until recently were controlled by militia who imposed their own “taxes”) became highly personalised. Revenue collection and government expenditure were difficult to monitor and formal financial institutions were virtually non-existent.
Other allegations in the report may also prove to be detrimental to Kenya’s relations with the Somali Government. The report claims that the Kenya Defence Forces along with the Ras Kamboni brigade that fought alongside to capture Kismayu from Al Shabaab, have been exporting charcoal from the port in violation of a Security Council ban and against the instructions of Somalia’s president.
The report states that since the Kenyan and Ras Kamboni forces took control of Kismayu, the export of charcoal has not abated.
It states that one million sacks of charcoal are exported from the port each month, and that charcoal exports from Somalia as a whole have more than doubled, and are now worth nearly $400 million. If the situation persists, charcoal exports this year will have consumed some 10.5 million trees and deforested some 1,750 square kilometres in Somalia, warns the report.
Although KDF had denied involvement, this issue raises a larger concern about the role and continued presence of Kenyan forces in the self-declared state of “Jubbaland” in southern Somalia.
The Somali president has in the past accused Kenya of siding with the Ras Kamboni leader Ahmed Mohamed Islam “Madobe”, who appointed himself as the “president of Jubbaland” through. By taking political sides, KDF may be inadvertently fuelling tensions and clan rivalries in the conflict-ridden country