DUBAI // In a resolution that will mostly affect Dubai and Gulf states, the UN Security Council yesterday banned the export of Somali charcoal, saying it provided "significant revenue" to Al Shabab militants.
The passage of Resolution 2036 came ahead of a major conference on Somalia which began in London today.
It also approved expanding the African Union Mission in Somalia from 12,000 to 17,731 troops to buttress the weak Somali government against Al Shabab rebels.
"Charcoal exports from Somalia are a significant revenue source for Al-Shabaab and also exacerbate the humanitarian crisis," the resolution said.
"All member states shall take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect import of charcoal from Somalia."
Traders in Dubai and the Gulf buy the majority of Somali charcoal sold through ports controlled by the Al Shabab, primarily the southern port of Kismaayo.
The group earns $15 million - or up to 20 per cent of annual revenues - from taxes on the trade, a UN report said in July.
The resolution gave UN member states 120 days to report back what they had done to implement the ban.
The US representative to the UN, Susan Rice, praised the resolution and called on states to act quickly.
"We urge all member states to take rapid, effective steps to meet their responsibility to comply with this obligation and to immediately implement the ban on charcoal."
The UN Security Council in July said in Resolution 2002 that any non-local commerce through ports controlled by Al Shabab could become subject to a travel ban or asset freeze.
Since then, Gulf states had continued to steadily import charcoal, said a diplomatic source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The commodity is primarily used for shisha pipes and re-exported around the Middle East.
The ban would also benefit the Somali community and environment, the source said.
The loss of trees used to produce charcoal exacerbated desertification in Somalia, where a drought last year claimed the lives of more than 29,000 children under the age of 5, according to US aid officials.
With 80 per cent of charcoal being sold abroad, prices had risen beyond what Somalis could afford.
In recent months, Kenyan forces had sought to seize the port of Kismaayo from Al Shabab.
During a visit to the UAE last month, the UK minister for Africa and the UN Henry Bellingham said the charcoal trade had become less pressing because Al Shabab might lose control of the port.
For now, it remains in their hands.