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The Somali society consists of homogenous ethnic and cultural groups. However, this relatively small country, also known as the Horn of Africa, is fragmented along economic, territorial, and clan projections. Somali gained independence in 1960; unfortunately, in 1969, the founding president was assassinated. Mr. Siad Barre took over, as the president, until 1991 when he was also assassinated. By this time, Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia, was in a crisis of war, which caused widespread instability in the country.
After the fall of the government following the death of Siad Barre, a state of lawlessness ensued, and brought about an uprising of different factions claiming authority. These factions include the Government of Somaliland, the Government of Puntland, and the Transitional Federal Government.
Contemporarily, Somalia is rife with cases of human rights oppression. The establishment of a transitional government has faced stiff resistance from the domestic militia groups. The resistance has sparked humanitarian injustices like rape, torture, murder, and forceful eviction of Somalis. This paper seeks to analyze the situation of piracy in Somalia using a societal framework.
The three forms of governments are severely weakened to legislate and implement prudent policies. The official government structures are extremely weak to counter the extremely powerful informal systems of governance, due to lack of qualified human expatriates and financial resources.
The inability of the Federal Government to recapture Mogadishu fully, from militants, has profoundly affected the establishment of law and order in Somalia. Dilapidated and improper infrastructure networks affect the ability of the legitimate authorities to provide public service to the Somalis.
The cultural organization of the Somali society vastly isolates women from political responsibilities. Further, due to lawlessness in Somalia, there is rampant unemployment amongst youth and a vast majority of adults. This situation of unemployment has driven a majority of youths to get into militias like piracy groups, for piracy is viewed as a source of income to the many unemployed youths.
Piracy in Somalia
Maritime piracy has been a serious threat to shipping industries for several years. Somalia is geographically positioned along the coastal waters of the Gulf of Aden. There are inherent socio-economic factors that pioneer the acts of piracy in Somalia. For instance, extreme poverty, unemployment, and lawlessness amongst the population on the coastline are some of the factors for piracy. The genesis of piracy in Somalia dates back to the 1990’s, when pirates adopted an organizational theory to piracy.
Initially, a group of youths, armed with weapons, guarded the Somali coastline against illegal fishing. Those vessels that wee captured fishing within the Somali territorial waters were forced to pay ransom for their release. This progressively deteriorated to include any ships that passed through the Somali coast.
After the year 2000, the pirates started kidnapping the ships and the crew on board while demanding enormous sums of ransom. The pirates decided to attack ships even outside their territorial waters. This scenario made Somali coastline become highly insecure for maritime ships. The main objective for Somali pirates is to demand ransom from the shipping companies. They do not interfere with the cargo on the ships or even on the ship.
Whenever a ship is hijacked, everyone on board together with the ship are held hostage in the pirate’s station. The demand for ransom comes through a series of negotiations between the pirates and the owners of the ship. It is believed that pirates employ the same methodology to initiate attacks on the vessels and in their negotiations for ransom. According to experts, there is sufficient knowledge to believe that Somali piracy is controlled from a central place in Puntland.
Causes of Piracy in Somalia
Somalia provides a platform for a majority of pirates to advance their activities. Piracy thrives in Somalia due to a number of intricately related factors. There are hard biting poverty levels in Somalia that has exposed Somalis to social injustices and crime. A population consumed by poverty is easily swallowed into societal ills in order to gain some income for survival. Geographically, Somali experiences severe environmental challenges like long spells of drought.
The Somali people lack alternative ways to employ themselves to make a living. Foreign investments in Somali are minimal to provide employment for the youth. The need for income forces the youth to join the pirates for monetary gain. The drastic decline of fish at the coastline due to illegal fishing left a majority of Somalis with no feasible source of income other than piracy.
The political situation in Somalia has allowed piracy to thrive to extreme levels. There is no single government that that instills law and order in Somalia. This has created an extensive state of insecurity that fosters the activities of pirates. Illegal fishing on Somali waters prompted the Somalis to attack illegal fishing ships within their waters. The pirates believe that continued attack on the vessels would reduce illegal fishing on the Somali waters.
Impact of Piracy
Piracy has stimulated an extreme upsurge in the cost of maritime businesses. Shipping companies are paying higher insurance premiums due to increased risk along the coastline. The shipping companies are charging higher freight charges, in order to cover the increased cost of operations; hiring armed security to safeguard the ships across Somali waters.
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Piracy discourages foreign investments on the Somali coastline. As a result, the Somali economy realizes low revue collection from the ports and infrastructure. The large influx of ransom paid by the ship owners contributes enormously to currency devaluation. Piracy generates a lot of money that is controlled by availability of massive militias who may erode the presence of a legitimate government.
The availability of prodigious amounts of money to pirates may disrupt the process of governance and propagate the state of insecurity in Somalia. Piracy causes immense psychological stress to the crew on board and their families. The experience of being held hostage is extremely traumatic and could last several years.
A societal framework of analysis helps us understand the root causes of given situations. A critical analysis of the situation of piracy in Somalia exposes various causal factors. For instance, Somalia has experienced a series of assassinations of the heads of states. This exposes a volatile political situation that is the genesis of instability. Instability breeds lawlessness, since the available institutions cannot instill law and order.
As in Somalia, Instability caused war, which destroyed infrastructure and a flourishing trade network. This consequently plunged Somalis into extreme levels of poverty and unemployment. Furthermore, the adverse effects of a long drought stimulated a humanitarian crisis in Somalia. One of the many things that this Somali situation has taught me is the social effects of war and lawlessness. The social fabric cannot co-exist with war and lawlessness given what I have seen in the Somali situation.
Families have broken down and/or separated, social institutions have closed down, and thus the social fabric is torn. Education levels have nosedived, wealth creation is illegal, legitimate employment rates are almost nil and Somali has almost zero regional value, and that situation presents a new face of sociology to me. It is normal human behavior for human beings to devise survival techniques to end for their needs.
A group of youths ventured into piracy to earn a living and provide for their families. Although piracy is a crime, it provided reprieve to a majority of youths who were languishing in poverty. The adverse effects of piracy on international trade stimulated renewed focus on the situation in Somalia. The international and regional community had neglected the dire situation in Somalia and hence the consequences.
Piracy is an international issue that affects international trade hence it requires a firm commitment to eliminate it. Regulations should be formulated to curb piracy in Puntland and other Somali coasts. Maritime security should be enhanced at Puntland in order to keep off pirates. The security apparatus should include intelligence network to spearhead surveillance on the coastal waters. The international community should unite to install a stable government in Somalia.
Piracy is a social phenomenon hence the societal framework analysis is highly effective in understanding its effects. The situation in Somalia requires immediate interventions in order to curb piracy along the Somali coast. Somalia has prevalent poverty levels, high unemployment rates, and extreme insecurity. These factors have stimulated the growth of piracy in Somalia. Piracy along the coastline of Somalia affects both regional and international trade hence the world should unite to help Somalia.