The terrorist business model
In Mogadishu, whoever has the biggest escort on the road always has right of way. Attacks are becoming more frequent on the road, the city is nervous. Soldiers at checkpoints shoot at whoever does not follow their instructions. Sometimes they target tuk-tuk drivers; they pull them out of their vehicles and beat them.
A few kilometres from the country club, we go meet a man that does not want to be named. He was a commander of al-Shabaab in Southwestern Somalia. Last October after surviving two attacks by competing wings of al-Shabaab, he made a deal with the government: freedom for information.
He knows how al-Shabaab business operates. He himself has beheaded 35 men and women with a machete in the past seven years and he has probably shot many more than that. His face is covered in scars.
He used to be a farmer; he owned plantations by the river in a village in the region of Lower Shebelle where he was also chief. He used to sell his fruits as far as Mogadishu until the drought of 2006 when all his plantations died. One day, al-Shabaab men appeared at his door and ordered him to follow or they would shoot him.
They made him the head of finance for the region and he quickly found out that money was more important than anything else was. Most politicians and all businesses pay protection money. Al-Shabaab is making money across the whole country. The collect tolls on the streets they control and some routes take in more than $50,000 a day.
They control the smuggling trade in charcoal and sugar in the south of the country and they are involved in smuggling ivory and rhinoceros horns. He claims that al-Shabaab is also receiving financial support from other countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The man says that he used to live in an eight-room villa by the sea southwest of Mogadishu. He had 3 slaves and 12 security guards plus 2 new all-terrain vehicles.
Al-Shabaab controls almost everything.
At another table, we find Mac, one of the Somalis who did not flee from the war, one of the city’s dubious dealmakers, a mixture of intermediary, smuggler and businessman. He became rich from diamonds in Congo and now he is growing his fortune here. Uranium mining, he maintains, is the next big thing.
He says, “Somalia is a country in which almost everything is broken and where almost everything is in short supplies. It is a country without security and without structures, the best preconditions for business.”