NAIROBI, Kenya – The Kenyan government on Thursday expressed disappointment at the decision by the United Nations Security Council to block its push to toughen sanctions on Somali militant group Al Shabaab.
Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau told The EastAfrican that he was dismayed that the countries that have been hit the most by Al Shabaab and other extremist groups did not support Kenya’s proposal.
“We are disappointed because it seems unconscionable that any country, least of all a country that is in the UN Security Council and which has lost its citizens in the terror attacks by Al Shabaab, would not wish to see all necessary measures brought to bear on this hideous organization,” said Kamau.
“We would expect that of all the entities of the UN multilateral system, that the UN Security Council would be most sensitive to this issue and would feel most compelled to bring to bear the maximum pressure on organizations such as Al Shabaab, which have killed hundreds of innocent people in both Somalia and Kenya.”
“[This is] an organization that continues to hold tens, if not hundreds, of innocent civilians behind their terrorist lines, and views the holding of those poor innocents as a justification to hijack the international humanitarian system and the proceeds from it.”
The Security Council on Wednesday rejected Kenya’s request to designate Al Shabaab a terror group under Resolution 1267, which includes groups like Al Qaeda, Taliban, and ISIL.
The move came on the backdrop of strong lobbying by US humanitarian agencies and former diplomats who say such designation would “criminalize humanitarian aid.”
Kenya, however, argues that the Council failed to address the concerns surrounding Shabaab’s continued revenue extraction by abusing aid.
“That the excuse of humanitarian access has been used to justify standing down in 1267 is particularly sad. For humanitarian assistance to be used to finance and sustain this terror organization is hugely disappointing, especially because it conflates something that we Kenyans believe in and are champions of in the world—humanitarian and refugees assistance—with something that is deplorable to us and an anathema to our society, which is terror and terrorism.” Kamau said.
“…That we have failed to get one additional sanction regime will not deter us from remaining focused on our goal which is to eliminate terror in our country and in the world at large.”
Nairobi was fronting the proposal for the second time after the first bid failed in 2014 on a veto from the United Kingdom.
At the time, Somalia, Djibouti and other countries in the region rallied together, expressing outrage at the Shabaab’s 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall, in which 67 people were killed.
This time, though, Mogadishu joined the opposition, arguing that the proposal was “unjustified.”
Abukar Dahir Osman, Somalia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, argued that Al Shabaab can be tamed through existing UN Security Council resolutions, as long as there was a regional co-operation on it.
“[We] urge [the] Kenyan government to implement existing Security Council resolution 751 targeting AS (al-Shabaab), including the ban of illegal charcoal trade in Somalia, which is the lifeline of AS to finance its operations in the region,” Osman tweeted on Wednesday.
He was referring to various UN Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia reports which charged that the Kenya Defence Forces, who are part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, had collaborated with militants to continue exporting charcoal using the Port of Kismayu.
The Kenyan government has denied the allegations.
Al Shabaab is currently administered under a different sanctions regime under UNSC Resolution 751.
The designation, initially passed to control civil war in Somalia, has been amended to include a ban on arms purchase for both Somalia (with exemptions) and Shabaab, travel ban and asset freeze as well as a ban on charcoal trade that was seen by the UN as Shabaab’s main source of revenue.