Conflict & Justice

Somalia's tenuous peace

kismayo_port1.jpg

Kismayo's natural deep-water harbor is at the heart of the city's economy and is closely guarded. Security issues and a UN embargo on coal sales means the port is less busy than in the past.

Credit:

Tristan McConnell

KISMAYO, Somalia ― Kismayo’s southern entrance is flanked by pile after vast pile of charcoal, bagged and stacked in towering blocks on either side of the asphalt road.

These stalled shipments now threaten to undermine hopes of a lasting peace in Somalia.

Al Shabaab, Somalia’s Al Qaeda-styled militant organization, withdrew from Kismayo late last month as an international military force moved in. It was the group’s last of a string of retreats that began 14 months ago in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

It’s been a dramatic turnaround for Al Shabaab, which just over a year ago had nearly full control of the capital and much of the country’s hinterlands. Since its withdrawal from Mogadishu, the city has experienced something of a revival, at least by Somali standards.



Whether or not Kismayo, a coastal economic center in the country’s south, can do the same is almost entirely dependent on the tens of millions of dollars worth of charcoal laying in wait at its port.

  • kismayo_charcoal2.jpg

    Laborers working at the stockpile of coal where as many as 5 million sacks are piled up on the outskirts
    of Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_soldiers1.jpg

    There has been a heavy military presence in the city since Al-Shabaab withdrew from Kismayo a few weeks ago. The group is composed of Kenyan and Somali soldiers as well as fighters from the Ras Kamboni Brigades, an allied militia.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_charcoal3.jpg

    Towering piles of coal greet visitors to Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_soldiers2.jpg

    A Somali National Army soldier patrols along the main road in Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_charcoal4.jpg

    Dismembered cabs of trucks lie on the soot-covered ground in a stockpile of coal just outside Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_soldiers4.jpg

    A Kenyan soldier mans the gun turret of an armored personnel carrier as a convoy approaches the stockpile of coal on the outskirts of Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_port1.jpg

    Kismayo's natural deep-water harbor is at the heart of the city's economy and is closely guarded. Security issues and a UN embargo on coal sales means the port is less busy than in the past.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_soldiers5.jpg

    Two Ras Kamboni Brigades fighters rest on the sea wall at Kismayo port.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

  • kismayo_port2.jpg

    The port in Kismayo is one of the city's few reliable sources of employment. A line of men walk in single-file to unload a cargo ship from Dubai after being searched by soldiers.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

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    An antelope grazes in the overgrown garden of a city compound in Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell

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    Somali army and Ras Kamboni Brigades soldiers mount a pick-up truck in central Kismayo.

    Credit:

    Tristan McConnell