Somalia bans export of birds, beasts and coal

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which controls the capital Mogadishu and much of south and central Somalia, issued a directive on Tuesday banning exports of charcoal and of rare birds and animals.

The executive committee of the UIC issued the directive after a full committee meeting agreed to the ban, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, the UIC vice-chairperson, said.

”The decision was reached after the committee was briefed on the dangers posed by the indiscriminate cutting of our trees,” he said.

The directive had been sent to all involved in the charcoal trade, and ”will be enforced in all areas under UIC control”.

The directive was welcomed by most Somalis, according to Abdulkadir Ibrahim Ga’al, or ”Abkow”, head of Civil Society in Action, an umbrella organisation that brings together 12 civil society groups.

”This is a long overdue and positive step. It is indeed welcome,” Abkow said.

At the current rate of decimation, he said, ”there will be no trees left in Somalia. ”They are now cutting mango trees because their customers prefer the smell of the mango charcoal.”

Abkow said 70% of the trade passed through Mogadishu and the rest through the southern port city of Kismayo, 500km south of the capital.

Almost all the charcoal goes to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia, where a bag fetches about $15, Somali business sources said.

The UIC will seek assistance from all quarters to solicit their support in stopping this trade. ”This is killing our country and it must stop now before it is too late,” said Omar.

The directive came into effect this week and the committee warned that anyone caught dealing in charcoal after that date would face the full force of the law.

Omar warned foreign ships coming to Somalia to take on charcoal that they risk arrest, a fine, or both, if they are caught.

The directive also imposes a ban on trade in wildlife and rare species of birds, said Omar.

”There is a brisk trade in falcons, hawks, eland and dik-diks, and many other species, to the Gulf States,” said Abkow.

Stopping the trade will not be easy, and will require the cooperation of the Arab countries as well as the Somali business community, sources said. Enforcement of the ban will also depend on the ability of the UIC to set up territorial control and an effective justice system.

Meanwhile, the BBC has reported that Mogadishu’s port, once one of the busiest in East Africa, has been declared open after a 10-year closure.

Workers have spent weeks clearing away the debris blocking access, reports said.

The port and international airport have been closed since United Nations and US troops ended their operations in the city as it descended into chaos in the mid-1990s after the collapse of the central government.

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