Playing cat and mouse as pirate operations become a lot more sophisticated than this, photo: UK Ministry of Defense Crown Copyright/flickr
Pirates in the Indian Ocean have struck once again: Within two days, groups of pirates hijacked two more tankers, bringing the total of ships being held hostage in the region to a whopping 30 (with 700 crew members on board).
And the latest hijackings are likely to net the pirates more money than ever, with one of the Greek-owned tankers carrying more than $200 million (yes, MILLION) worth of oil. In addition to the human cost of these tragedies, the cost to the global oil market is potentially significant as it tightens already uncomfortable choking points in the transfer of oil from the Middle East to the rest of the world. Although pirate attacks are getting less frequent, their audacity, sophistication and sheer reach is growing as funds available to pirate groups in Somalia in particular have mushroomed.
Indeed Navfor spokesman Wing Commander Paddy O’Kennedy notes that:
“What we are dealing with here is a business model that is so good, that for a matter of tens of thousands of dollars you can put together a pirate action group, you can send it to sea and if you are lucky and hit the jackpot, you can come back with a vessel that within six months will bring you a return of nine-and-a-half million dollars. We are the first to admit we are not deterring piracy.”
So, as more money flows to pirates and international naval task forces continue to struggle to secure shipping lanes that keep the world economy moving, the question arises: Is piracy in the Indian Ocean and in the Gulf of Aden a scourge that is here to stay? And if naval task forces can do little else except damage control, should the international community not be looking to address the root causes of the lawlessness and misery that drives piracy in the region?
Isn’t it time that the international community take another hard look at what is happening in Somalia and to the Somali people?
For a wealth of background information and analysis on this issue, see our Digital Library holdings under the keyword ‘Piracy on the High Seas‘.
AMISOM’s Burundian Peacekeepers Prepare for Deployment, photo courtesy of US Army Africa/flickr
The West can afford to ignore Somalia, Africa cannot. On the evening of July 11th, three bombs went off in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, leaving at least 75 dead and many more injured. There was no need for investigations or inquiries; the perpetrators quickly and proudly claimed responsibility. Carrying out its first attack outside Somalia’s borders, the Islamic militia Al-Shabaab, announced that Uganda was paying the price for deploying troops to Somalia in support of the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) and the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
The bombings warranted an immediate and stalwart response from Somalia’s neighbors—Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan—who pledged to reinforce AMISOM with an extra 2,000 troops. It seems, however, that Uganda is also seeking to go beyond simply helping AMISOM. » More
Somaliland cruises along, photo Carl Montgomery/flickr
On Wednesday, Foreign Policy published a call for help
written by the current Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. To make it short, his point is: Help: don’t let the Transitional Government go down; send us money so we can handle the situation.
The argument behind his call for action is Somalia could become the new safe haven for Al-Qaida and other international terrorists and that it’s not the time for the international community to change its policy toward Somalia.
But are there not other options for the international community? Besides ‘forgetting’ Somalia and pulling out like Omar Ali Sharmarke fears will happen, what else would be possible?
I think that the world has forgotten that two parts of Somalia are actually doing relatively well in comparison with Mogadishu and the center of the country: Somaliland and Puntland. These two de facto autonomous regions are currently not recognized by any government.
Would strengthening these two poles of peace and relative stability by establishing diplomatic contact and providing aid and investment help stabilize Somalia? For example, the US has taken the first step by inviting a Somaliland cabinet delegation to Washington earlier this year for talks, which were seen by some as de facto recognition.
On the other hand, international interference in Somaliland presidential elections almost derailed them with allegations of voter list tampering (see same article linked above).
Maybe a middle road of gently assisting the two regions, offering advice when asked, while recognizing their right to form their democracies on their own, is the proper one. Perhaps then Somalia will benefit from their experience. If not, the international community will be out of cards, and Somalia will be out of time.
Map of population displacement by ReliefWeb
I find it rather hard to follow the Somalia crisis in mainstream international media. I guess it has something to do with the killings of journalists in the country.
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), six reporters have been killed there since the beginning of the year. They say it makes Somalia the most dangerous country for journalists right now.
Frustrated at my regular news providers, I set out looking for up-to-date web-based information on the crisis.
Here’s a selection of the websites I came across, with direct links to the relevant page on Somalia: