A Somali telecommunication company could be behind the recent surge in attacks on Kenyan communication masts, a confidential security report states.
“The telco wants to have complete monopoly in Somalia along the Kenyan border and 50 kilometres into Kenya in order to shut out Kenyan telcos,” the report states.
In return for the attacks on the masts by the militants and other forms of support, the company is alleged to be paying al-Shabaab up to US$3 million (approximately Sh300 million), which enables the terror group to finance its operations.
“Additionally, the attacks on the masts by al-Shabaab are part of a plot to ensure that the group advances its terrorist agenda. The terror group is trying to establish a pseudo-caliphate in north-eastern Kenya and Somalia,” the report adds.
So far this year, over eight communication masts have been destroyed by the militants, leaving the local communities and security personnel in a communication blackout.
Some of these were located at Welmerer, Amuma, Yumbis, Hulugho, Jabibar and Galmagala. Kenya’s leading mobile services provider, Safaricom, has been the hardest hit.
Previous reports did not bring out the link between business and terror, only indicating that the attacks were aimed at disrupting police communication and delaying response time during terror attacks.
According to the latest report, the money the telco pays al-Shabaab is also meant to allow them gain access to areas under the control of the terror group.
“The attacks on the Kenyan masts by al-Shabaab are seen as a plot by the militant group to ensure that the Somali telco has monopoly over communication in the border regions including inside Kenya to enable the company thrive and lead to an increase in monies paid to al-Shabaab. The destruction is also meant to ensure that security agencies do not communicate and is also meant to deny members of the public the ability to communicate and transact using Kenyan telcos,” the report states.
Security sources further indicate that, apart from offering financial support for terrorist activities, the Somali company also uses its money remittance platform in Somalia to run al-Shabaab’s day-to-day operations including the collection of taxes, commonly known as Zakat.
“Zakat collected in areas located close to the border is remitted through the platform to al-Shabaab headquarters in Jilib,” the report states.
The cooperation between the telco and al-Shabaab is alleged to have started in 2016 after the terror group reportedly shut down the firm’s antennas in southern Somali. Apparently, the communication services provider had refused to comply with al-Shabaab’s request to hand over to the group money remittance information regarding a former member of al-Shabaab. Since then, the report states, the company has been cooperating with the terror group.
“This information helps the terror group in their taxation of the incomes of business people and other individuals earning income and transacting through EVC,” the report states.
A situation update captured in the report suggests that the telco, working closely with the terror group, could be planning to erect communication masts along the Kenya border with the aim of expanding their network coverage.
“The revelations cast serious questions on the operations of the telco. Its support for the terror group, which has killed thousands of civilians and mutilated countless others, is appalling,” the report adds.
The report comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Kenya and Somalia are at an all-time low over the maritime boundary dispute currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Kenya blames the Somali leadership for the strained relationship. “It is also unfortunate that the maritime boundary issue has been hijacked by parochial politics,” Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Macharia Kamau, told the Sunday Nation in July.
Somalia, on the other hand, accuses Kenya of bullying. The differences between Kenya and the authorities in Mogadishu recently came to the fore following the re-election of Ahmed Mohamed Islam ‘Madobe’ as president of Somalia’s federal state of Jubbaland.
While the Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo’ administration in Somalia wanted the election nullified over alleged irregularities, Kenya was very quick to congratulate Madobe on his re-election.
President Farmajo’s government early this month lobbied the UN Security Council to block Kenya’s proposal to tighten sanctions against al-Shabaab and place the group in the same league as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The decision has given room to questions about the stand of Somalia on the fight against al-Shabaab.
Kenya’s proposal would have restricted humanitarian aid to al-Shabaab strongholds, starving the group of key revenue – taxes from relief aid.