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Over the last decade, Somali piracy has caused a lot challenges to the international community (Daniels, 2012). Somali piracy has not only posed a threat to vital trading routes, but it has also threatened the national and the international security. Notably, Somali pirates have been a menace to ocean-going carriers and pleasure cruisers that sail between the coast of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
As such, Somali pirates have attacked oil tankers, freighters, cruise ships, and private yachts. In the last decade, these pirates have harassed global shipping magnates by holding their crews. In most of these attacks, the pirates have collected huge ransoms in exchange for the victims and their properties.
All these attacks have been carried out under the watchful eyes of the world’s largest and most powerful navies from the US, Russia, China, UK, and Japan (Daniels, 2012). This paper focuses on Somali piracy, security situation, and the possible recommendations for ending the menace.
The Somali republic occupies a landmass of 637, 540 square kilometers. This country is situated in the Horn of Africa with its capital city situated in Mogadishu. In the year 1991, Somalia had a population of 7.7 million individuals. Currently, it is estimated that the country’s population has increased to 10 million individuals. Most of the Individuals living in the northern part of Somalia are pastoralists.
On the other hand, most of the individuals living in the southern part of Somalia are cultivators. Before the collapse of Barre’s government, Somalis population comprised of 99% Sunni Muslims. However, after the year 1991 activist Islamists took over most parts of the country.
Equally, before the year 1991 the country offered free education at all levels to its citizens. However, after the year 1991 nationally owned learning institutions collapsed. Somalia’s economy was undergoing market oriented structuring until the year 1991.
During the 1980s, the country initiated stabilization and macroeconomic adjustment programs. These programs were being supported by international credit and aid agencies. Before the collapse of Barre’s government, Somalia’s economic growth was growing progressively.
Prior to the year 1991, Muhammad Said Barre headed the country with an iron fist. More often, his government faced rebellion from the Somali National Movement, which later declared itself independent in June during the same year. Before the fall of his government, the country consisted of 16 administrative regions. These regions were each divided into 3 districts. An elected leader headed each of these districts.
On January 1991, opposition forces defeated President Said Barre’s regime. Before the government eventually collapsed, government institutions such as the military, police forces, schools, ministries and the health facilities had stopped their operations. In the year 1992, the situation in Somalia deteriorated owing to the civil war and the catastrophic drought that affected most parts of central Somalia.
The drought claimed more than 40% of the population in the central Somalia. It is alleged that all the children below the age of 5 years perished from the drought. World’s relief organizations were thwarted from distributing relief food and healthcare services by armed militias who had taken over the leadership of these regions following the collapse of the Somalia’s government.
From the year 1991, Somalia has never had stable regime. In the subsequent years after the collapse of the government, violence erupted in Somalia affecting Somalia citizens and their neighboring countries.
Somalia has one of the longest and most beautiful coastlines in Africa. The waters along its coast are rich in shrimp, lobsters, tunas, and many other valuable seafood products. From early as the 17th century, the Horn of Africa has often been a haunt for pirates. During the 17th century, the region’s waters flourished with rich and vulnerable merchants. As a result, these waters attracted rogue pirates from as far as New England.
Before the collapse of Barre’s government, Somalia High Seas International Company (SHIFCO) had been established to exploit the lucrative industry (Murphy, 2011). However, after the government collapsed the company failed to realize its full potential. In the subsequent years, fishing vessels from across the world set up their operations in the coastline of Somalia illegally.
These ships came from as far as the EU and Japan. By the year 1999, it was estimated that more that 300 ships were illegally fishing in Somalia. It is alleged that the ships only targeted the high–profit sea organisms such as lobsters and shrimp and discarded all other fish. Notably, the fishing equipments that were used by these fishing ships were illegal.
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As a result, the fishing ships caused ecological damage by destroying the nurseries and breeding grounds of marine organisms in the area. Equally, the trawlers used by these fishing ships affected small-scale subsistence fishers by destroying their traps and fishing nets.
Before the exploitation by the international fishing companies, Somalia’s anglers used to gather enough fish for their families to eat. However, after the illegal fishing in the area the Somalis were left hungry and desperate.
Equally, after the collapse of Barre’s government illegal dumping of waste materials at the coast of Somalia began. European and Asian nations began dumping toxic waste materials in Somalia’s seawater beginning in the early 1990’s. These nations took advantage of the civil war in the region and supplied the militias with arms to be allowed to dump their toxic chemicals.
According to UNEP’s spokesperson, the dumping in the region has been going on for over a decade (Geiss & Petrig, 2011). It is reported that the chemicals dumped in the Somalia’s seawater posed danger to marine life and the people living in the region. Some people who have bathed with water where the toxic wastes were dumped have been suffering from mysterious diseases. Similarly, animals who have consumed these waters have become ill and inedible.
Faced with these challenges, Somali anglers have been trying to protect their coastline unsuccessfully (Geiss & Petrig, 2011). In their attempts to confront the foreign vessels, the anglers have been sprayed with highly pressurized water hoses that have often capsized their boats. In response to these illegal acts, the Somali anglers began arming themselves with the aim of securing their coastline.
As early as the mid 1990s, Somali anglers began buying speedboats to improve their navigation abilities. In response to these threats, international fishing ships operating illegally in the region began to pay the local militiamen to guard their shipping vessels.
During the 1990s, when piracy emerged in Somalia pirate groups were loosely organized (Geiss & Petrig, 2011). These groups had limited technological capabilities. There attacks were often unsuccessful and only occurred close to the shores. During these attacks, the Somali pirates would board the ships and steal all the available valuables. They never took the members of the crew hostage nor demanded ransoms.
In addition, early pirates only targeted ships that were illegally fishing or dumping the waste in their waters. Because the country had no central government to protect is waters, the pirates stepped in and served as ad hoc coast guards.
Out of these initiatives, the pirates gained popular acceptance among the Somali people. Over time, Somali pirates transformed from local act of self-defense into an international connected criminal enterprise attracting the attention of nations around the world (Geiss & Petrig, 2011).
The number of individuals involved in piracy has grown dramatically in the past few years. In the year 2006, it was estimated that the number of people who were involved in piracy were a few dozen. However, in the year 2008 the number had risen to 1500. In addition to its growth in the number of individuals involved, piracy on the coast of Somalia has expanded its activities.
Unlike in the past few years, the current pirates in the region engage in complex criminal activities targeting all the ships passing through their waters. Their current attacks involve dangerous and complex weapons such as automatic rifles, hand grenades, pocket-propelled grenade launchers, cell phones, night vision goggles, and the use of global positioning technologies.
With the increase in their weaponry and technology, the piracy has turned into a very lucrative business. In the year 2008, the business netted between $80 million and $ 150 million.
In Somalia, four major groups of pirates operate (Ginkel & Putten, 2010). The Somali National Coast Guard attacks smaller vessels on the coast of Kismayo. General Garaad Mohammed leads this group. The second group is the Marka Factions. Sheik Yusuf Said leads this group. Marka Factions operate in the south of Mogadishu.
In the north of the country, Puntland Group operates. This group is made up of former anglers. The fourth and most dangerous group is the Somali Marines. Unlike the other three groups, Somali Marines have detailed military structure with officers in charge of the pirates’ finances.
Pirates’ sophisticated technologies have enabled the pirates to track ships hundreds of miles from the Somalia coastline (Bahadur, 2011). In the year 2001, the pirates’ technologies enabled them to track ships 32 nautical miles away from their shoreline.
By the year 2005, the pirates had acquired better technologies, which enabled them to track vessels sailing 390 nautical miles away from their shoreline. In the year 2011, there were reports that the pirates could attack ships as far as 800 nautical miles away from their shoreline. With the ever- increasing reach of the Somali pirates, the world nations have become more concerned with the criminal activities.
Theoretical and Practical Solutions
In their attempt to restore stability in Somalia, the US and the UN have noted that that all efforts without the partnership of a stable government are doomed to fail. In this regard, if the world nations are to end piracy and terrorism in Somalia they should first aim at stabilizing the country (Miller, 2012). To restore a functional government in Somalia, major efforts should be targeted at reintegrating the breakaway and the semiautonomous regions in the country.
Thus, the international community should aim at integrating Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug, and Maakhir into a united Somalia. In the past, several negotiations have been held outside the country with the aim of stabilizing the country. These efforts have been unsuccessful, as the locals feel that foreigners have influenced the solutions reached. To increase the legitimacy of these negotiations, negotiations should be held within Somalia.
Local negotiations are essential in the battle against the propaganda used by the terrorist and pirate organizations to legitimate their brutal tactics waged against the government. Equally, for effective reconciliation justice for the victims of human rights violations in the past should be sought. Perpetrators of egregious acts of violence should be tried locally and punished for their crimes against humanity (Geiss & Petrig, 2011).
Conclusion and Recommendations
Apart from implementing the above theory of reconciliation, funding for peacekeeping operations should be increased in the region to stabilize the country. In the past few years, the Somalia Federal Government has received $284 million from the international community (Nelson, 2010). These funds are being used in improving the government security forces.
As compared to the money spent by the US in fighting terrorisms in the Middle East, the money pledged to the Somali government is lower. This implies that additional funding should be allocated to the country’s security forces both within Somalia and within its region.
Another crucial component of defeating the terrorists and pirates in Somalia is securing its ports. Al-Shabaab militias are currently controlling several strategic ports enabling them to smuggle weapons and people into the country with ease. It is also believed that al-Shabaab control over several strategic ports has allowed piracy to thrive with ease due to their close connections with the pirate groups.
Similarly, with the help of Somalis living abroad the country can be stabilized. Many communities and terrorism groups in Somalia have been depending on remittance from Somalis living abroad. This implies that the Somalis living abroad have a lot of influence on the local communities. Thus, once security is achieved these individuals should be encouraged to return home and invest to create job opportunities for the locals.
In conclusion, the problem with Somalia piracy demands immediate and aggressive action (Berlatsky, 2010). According to the UN’s weapon embargo on Somalia, security situations in Somalia’s land and sea need immediate attention. It is alleged that the pirates in the sea have links with Islam extremist al-Shabaab that controls the southern part of Somalia.
This terrorism group has links with international terrorist group al-Qaida. The existence of al-Shabaab has destabilized security situations in Somalia and its neighboring countries. The tentacles of these terrorist groups have extended as far as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the UAE. In Africa, these criminals have used the ransoms they gain from the sea piracy in extending their criminal activities through the porous borders of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti.
It is believed that these groups are being financed and supported by underground networks that are determined to make Somalia a safe haven for jihad groups. If the world nations turn a blind eye on piracy in Somalia, they should be ready for disasters of horrific proportions in the coming years. In general, doing nothing to bring stability and sanity to Somalia would allow the piracy to flourish and spread their tentacles further into the Indian Ocean.
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Berlatsky, N. (2010). Piracy on the high seas. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
Daniels, C. L. (2012). Somali piracy and terrorism in the Horn of Africa. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.
Geiss, R., & Petrig, A. (2011). Piracy and armed robbery at sea: the legal framework for counter-piracy operations in Somalia and the Gulf of Aden . Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ginkel, B. v., & Putten, F. (2010). The international response to Somali piracy challenges and opportunities . Leiden, Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.
Miller, D. A. (2012). Modern-day piracy. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.
Murphy, M. N. (2011). Somalia, the new Barbary?: piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa . New York: Columbia University Press.
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