As of August 2019, Hormuud Telecom had grown to become the largest and most influential telecommunications company in Somalia with thousands of shareholders, employees and huge assets.
It was founded in April of 2002 by Ahmed Nur Ali Jim’ale, a key leader in the defunct Somali Islamic Courts Union (ICU) whose most radical elements eventually formed the Al-Shabaab.
Despite the tremendous growth, something seems amiss.
“Since then, Hormuud entrepreneurs and managers have been badly split between those adhering to moderate business style, norms and ethos and those devoted to the goals of radical political Islam,” notes a new report dubbed Reaping the Whirlwind by one of the constituent organisations of Uwazi Consortium.
The report reveals that the company, which also has offices in Kenya, is feared to be one of the heaviest financiers of the terror group Al-shabaab.
“Intelligence reports have also linked Hormuud Telecom with the the Al-Shabaab attack on Dusit D2 complex in Nairobi on January 16, 2019, using its business office along Ring-Road, Kileleshwa area
(about 100 meters from Dusit D2 building) to provide logistical and operational support to the attackers,” adds the 61-page report.
The report also reveals that Hormuud telecom sponsored Al-Shabaab operatives to carry
out attacks and destroyed 13 base station masts at the Safaricom telecommunications company’s site at Jabir in Mandera County along Kenya-Somalia border, perceived as retaliation against against AMISOM forces for allegedly destroying its masts in Gedo region.
However, Kahawa Tungu learns that the move was a business sabotage, as Hormuud seeks to take over business from Safaricom and Airtel in parts of North Eastern. Their network coverage extends to the Kenyan border, even as the Kenyan government keeps mum.
During the attack in September, masts in Welmarer, Amuma, Yumbis, Hulugho, Jabibar and Galmagala in Garissa were destroyed affecting mobile phone and Mpesa services in the region.
On the other side, the company was also accused of using Al-Shabaab militants as part of its strategy to gain complete monopoly in Somalia and to shut out Kenyan telecommunication companies 50 Kilometres into NorthEastern Kenya.
Hormuud is said to be an offshoot of Al-Barakaat, a group of companies established in 1986 and offering modern form of hawala (an informal value transfer system and remittance method), phone
and internet services.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in United States, America listed Al-Barakat as a terrorist entity, seized its assets, and detained several of its militant investors. Several large shareholders of Al-Barakaat and Hormuud are said to have strong links with Al-Shabaab.
Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale (Jim’ale), Hormuud’s largest investor, was a key leader in the Somali Islamic Courts Union (ICU) whose most radical elements eventually formed the Al-Shabaab.
“He is widely identified as one of Al-Shabaab’s largest financiers. In 2007- 2008, Jim’ale operated the Investors Group, a front company based in Djibouti, that purchased weapons and ammunitions in support of extremist activities. The group aided the smuggling of small arms from Eritrea through Djibouti into the Ogaden region of Ethiopia,” notes the report.
According to sources in the Somali government intelligence agency, Hormuud today is the greatest financier of AlShabaab, paying an estimated $200,000 (Ksh20 million) every month to the group.
The government of Somalia is said to have no control over Hormuud, as the company operates without any government regulations.
In September 2010, Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale founded ZAAD, a mobile-to-mobile money-transfer business that struck a deal with Al-Shabaab to make money transfers more anonymous by eliminating the need to show identification.