Sweet secrets: sugar smuggling and state formation in the Kenya–Somalia borderlands

Research output: Working paperResearchpeer-review


This Working Paper presents a case study of sugar smuggling along the trade corridor between Kismayu in Somalia and Nairobi in Kenya. The trading and smuggling of sugar in the Kenya – Somalia borderlands is a dangerous, lucrative, and highly political business. The paper explores the involvement of militants, Kenyan defence forces, bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen, and truck drivers to highlight the multiplicity of vested interests in the sugar trade. Sugar smuggling in northern Kenya is informed by decades of political marginalisation of the northern territories by the Kenyan central government. Corruption and structural neglect of domestic sugar production in western Kenya is also influenced by struggles over political power in Nairobi. By analysing the cross-border sugar trade this paper draws our attention to the relation between illicit trade and current state formation dynamics in northern Kenya.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherDanish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)
EditionDIIS WP 2017: 11
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)978 8776059019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017
SeriesDIIS Working paper


  • Kenya
  • fragile states
  • conflict economy
  • Somalia
  • smuggling

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