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Issue 507/ 15th - 21st Oct 2011
We Are Getting It Wrong On Piracy
Col Paddy Ankunda
According to the International Maritime Bureau, there were 217 incidents resulting in 49 successful hijackings in 2010. Up until June 13th this year, there have been 154 incidents and 21 successful hijackings. Pirates are currently holding 23 vessels and 439 seafarers’ hostage. In 2010, a record 1,181 seafarers were kidnapped.
Monitoring Group Report (2011) has magically determined that piracy is
itself a $140 million dollar business a year (in ransoms last year),
putting the pirating business just ahead of al-Shabaab at number two
with 100 million dollars. The pirates have expanded their area of
operations as far north as the southern Red
Sea and the coast of Oman,
the Indian coast in the east, and attacked ships as far south as the Mozambique
The question is: Are we getting it right in the way we are trying to solve the problem? Am afraid, the answer is No. The approximate annual cost of the international naval flotilla is said to be $2 billion; six times bigger than the cost of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) since 2007. AMISOM seeks to restore the state of Somalia and subsequently a state of law and order. Without fear, pirates live on land and launch sea attacks from there. Why then shouldn’t we spend on land based measures, like supporting AMISOM than sea operations?
Bronwyn Bruton, Fellow of One Earth Future Foundation told the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, in July 2011 that creating alternative economic opportunities for the youth will reduce incidences of piracy off the Somali coastal waters. Development support, that provides alternative ways of livelihood will make piracy unfashionable. This support should lay down the infrastructure for local communities to police themselves. On the other hand, development support will reward communities that do not tolerate piracy, and penalize those that do. However, this can only be possible when there is a functional state and AMISOM seeks to restore Somali state.
Recently, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson, announced a “second‐track strategy” that would supplement America’s hitherto policy of virtually unconditional support for the TFG. The new approach included greater formal engagement with government officials from Somaliland and Puntland with an eye to “looking for ways to strengthen their capacity both to govern and to deliver services to their people.” Carson acknowledged that both Somaliland and Puntland were “zones of relative political and civil stability,” and that “they will, in fact, be a bulwark against extremism, radicalism and of course piracy”
As a part of the second‐track strategy, the US government will reach out to groups in south central Somalia, groups in local governments, clans, and sub clans that are opposed to Al‐Shabaab, but are not allied formally or directly with the TFG. The idea is to find opportunities to work with these groups to see if one can identify them, and find ways of supporting their development initiatives and activities. That way, piracy will start to lose ground.
Finally, it is important to note that development can only stop piracy and terrorism in Somalia if the world is timely and consistent in meeting its funding obligations. Somalis have heard many false promises from donors over the years, and will not invest in changing their behavior unless they believe that the international community is seriously committed to their development. The financial rewards of piracy, after all, are clear and immediate.
Lt Col Paddy Ankunda is the Spokesman of the African Union Mission in Somalia