NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan troops in Somalia are heavily involved in the smuggling of about 150,000 tons of sugar a year into Kenya, a local watchdog group said Thursday.
Kenyan soldiers and a pro-government militia based in Somalia’s port city of Kismayo make $13 million a year from taxing the illegal sugar shipments which are smuggled to Kenya, Journalists for Justice said in a report. It didn’t break down the share of profits that each party allegedly makes.
Kenyan Defense Minister Raychelle Omamo denied the allegations, saying that they are meant to create hostility for Kenyan troops in Somalia. She said the report is a smear campaign.
According to the report, members of the Kenya military are also illegally exporting charcoal from Somalia.
Sugar smuggling is also financing activities of Islamic extremist group al-Shabab that the Kenya military went to Somalia to fight in in 2011. According to the report, al-Shabab makes $12.2 million a year from levying taxes on sugar trucks.
“This is a case where the security of the whole country is sacrificed for a few people to gain,” said journalist Kwamachetsi Makhoha, one of the authors of the report.
Kenyan leaders say the country’s troops are in Somalia to bolster the weak U.N.-backed Somali government against al-Shabab’s insurgency, and are with the African Union military mission.
Journalists for Justice said they interviewed at least 50 people with insider knowledge.
The report says sources from within the military, parliament and foreign embassies all described a situation in which a high-ranking military official heads a smuggling network which includes commanders of Kenyan troops, key figures in the ministries of defense, immigration and state house. It said the network enjoys the protection and tacit cooperation of leaders at the highest echelons of the executive and parliament.
TOM ODULA, Associated Press
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