n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - Somalia's security is tied to its natural resources : al-Shabaab's hold on conflict charcoal raises alarms : East Africa - issue in focus - : East Africa - issue in focus

Volume 2014, Issue 01
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The name 'conflict charcoal' may not sound as grandiose as 'conflict diamonds', but the commodity is a significant source of funding for East African terrorist activity. Africa's worst terrorist incident of 2013, the al-Shabaab attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall, had its genesis in the terrorist group's displeasure that its profitable charcoal trade was disrupted by Kenya's military involvement against the group in Somalia. The security of Somalia, home to al-Shabaab, is inextricably linked to the country's environmental security which includes deforestation for wood charcoal production. Income generated by the country's charcoal production also plays a major role in the capacity of al-Shabaab, Somalia's al-Qaeda subsidiary. Without charcoal revenues the jihadist terrorist group would be unable to conduct transnational attacks and to hold control of significant swaths of central and southern Somalia. The Horn of Africa is experiencing declining ecological health even without the wholesale loss of forests that are burned to make charcoal and shipped to Saudia Arabia. The ecological destruction serves to worsen Somalia's other economic, political and social challenges. 2013 brought signs that Somalia might achieve a degree of political stability, at least when compared to the previous two decades. For the country to further stabilise, policies are needed to both reverse Somalia's environmental degradation and interlink these policies with national security considerations, to incorporate the fact that environmental exploitation finances terrorist activities.

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