Piracy in Somalia Crisis around the Horn of Africa Bryant W. Abstract Piracy is a global concern that dates back thousands of years; however, it has taken new depth of mayhem in the modern age. The piracy in Somalia is a problem in the international shipping industry and imposes damage to ships and theft of cargo along the Horn of Africa. It causes water pollution off the Somali coast, considerable loss of life, and deteriorates the effectiveness of the shipping industry. Because of the international outcry, friendly forces have deployed specialized military elements and naval vessels to combat and ultimately negate piracy around Somalia.
This paper illustrates the lasting ill effects that the piracy in Somalia inflicts on the shipping industry and what has been done to resolve this conflict. Piracy in Somalia The origins of piracy date back thousands of years and continue to greatly affect international commerce today. Piracy is a criminal act of violence, robbery, or depredation committed by the crew of a private ship on international waters, or high seas, typically against merchant vessels toward persons and property aboard those vessels.
The piracy occurring in Somalia is a global concern that has taken new depth in the modern age. “The waters off the Horn of Africa have become the scene of modern-day piracy as vessels ranging from oil tankers to cruise ships are being attacked by teams of armed criminals using all kinds of small boats to stalk their prey” (de Blij & Muller, 2010). Moreover, piracy is a reaction by the people who suffer from an unstable government and economic mayhem in the region. Background of Somalia
Somalia, formerly known as a Democratic Republic, is now a country comprised of three sub-states located in the Horn of Africa. It does not have a permanent national government; rather, it is a transitional, parliamentary federal government. Somalia lies in Eastern Africa, bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, east of Ethiopia, and southwest of Kenya (CIA Factbook, 2010). Its landscape is semi-arid, mostly flat plains and plateaus rising to hills in the north; therefore, its residents are burdened with sparse vegetation/agriculture and are forced to rely on marine life for sustainment.
Its natural resources are uranium and largely unexploited reserves of iron ore, tin, copper, salt, natural gas, and possible oil reserves (CIA Factbook, 2010). These resources have not been harvested because the people of Somalia are preoccupied with self-preservation, rather than being able to focus their attention on development and prosperity. In the college textbook, Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts, authors de Blij & Muller (2010) demonstrate how Somalia is considered a failed state.
They explain how its national government collapsed during its civil war in 1991, how anarchy prevailed, and that its condition as a failed state led to the country’s fragmentation into three parts: * The northern sector, Somaliland, proclaimed its independence in 1991 and remains by far the most stable of all three and functioned, essentially, as an African state. However, Somaliland is not recognized as such by the international community. * During 1998, in the eastern portion of Somalia, a conclave of local chiefs declared the Puntland territory to be separate from the rest of Somalia and asserted an unspecified degree of autonomy. In the south, where the official capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, is located on the Indian Ocean coast, local secular warlords, supported by U. S. funding, and Islamic militias stormed its official capital, Mogadishu, in the south to continue their struggle for supremacy. Somalia is a country known worldwide for its historically chaotic internal conflict and loss of life. For example, in 2006, the Islamic militias stormed the capitol at Mogadishu and took control, ousting the warlords and proclaiming their determination to create an Islamic state (de Blij & Muller, 2010). Causes of Piracy in Somalia
The foundation of piracy in Somalia encompasses the environmental plight, religious conflict, and governmental instability. The Somali Civil War in 1991 marked a time of great change for Somalia, when President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted by combined northern and southern clan-based forces, all of whom were supported and armed by Ethiopia. The civil war greatly disrupted agriculture and food distribution in southern Somalia; thus, further influencing more internal conflict in the region. Moreover, Somalia has recurring droughts, frequent dust storms over eastern plains in the summer, and floods during the rainy season.
In addition, the current main environmental issues include how the use of contaminated water contributes to human health problems, deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, and famine (CIA Factbook, 2010). Somalia’s government has been working to reestablish the economy and political system, unfortunately, the international community recognizes Somalia as a failed state (de Blij & Muller, 2010). In an article, posted online by a candidate at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Dr. Abdullahi Elmi Mohamed, Ph. D. 2001) argues that the lack of government in Somalia breeds outside conflict. He explains how Somalia is the only country in modern history that has lacked a central government for so long. Since 1991, a series of rival warlords, each holding a small territory of the country, has in ruled Somalia; therefore, creating a condition where the country became stateless, and vulnerable for anyone’s exploitation, particularly outsiders and local self-interest-driven individuals. This lack of a functional government facilitated these individuals to run these “unsustainable business activities” damaging the local natural environment (Mohamed, 2010).
Millions of people are affected by the conflicts in Somalia. In addition to the economic tension, Somalia is perhaps the most conflict-prone part of the African Transition Zone. This conflict involves the historic Christian state of Ethiopia and its neighbors. The African Transition Zone represents the location of cultural and ethnic tensions that continue to erupt where Islamic and Arabized Africa meets the portion of Africa where Christianity and traditional beliefs prevail (de Blij ; Muller, 2010).
Moreover, Somalia is a key component in the eastern sector of the African Transition Zone, where over 9 million people, virtually all Muslim, live at the mercy of a desert-dominated climate that enforces cross-border migration into Ethiopia’s Ogaden area in pursuit of seasonal pastures. In an attempt to harvest these fruits, around four million Somalis live on the Ethiopian side of the border; however, the people of Somalia are an assemblage of five major ethnic groups fragmented into hundreds of clans engaged in an endless contest for power as well as survival. de Blij ; Muller, 2010). In 1970, President Mohamed Siad Barre proclaimed Somalia a socialist state, with the intention on establishing close relations with the U. S. S. R. In 1977, with the help of Soviet weapons, Somalia attempted to seize the Ogaden region of Ethiopia; however, Soviet and Cuban influence played a crucial role in Ethiopia’s victory. Consequently, in 1991, President Barre was overthrown by opposing clans; however, they failed to agree on a replacement and plunged the country into lawlessness and clan warfare (BBC News, 2010).
Piracy around the Horn of Africa is a by-product of the turmoil that has erupted from vicious measures in and around Somalia to obtain more power; and is now a process of sustainment in the country. Furthermore, the intensified emotional and ideological polarization between the religions of Islamic faith and Christianity has propelled this volatile conflict in the region. Problems Associated with Piracy Piracy has become a serious problem in the international shipping industry and imposes damage to many ships and theft of valuable cargo along the Horn of Africa.
In their college textbook, Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts, authors de Blij ; Muller (2010) illustrate that these buccaneers have increasing capabilities; but more specifically, that the Indian Ocean waters off the Somali coast has become an arena of action for a growing number of pirates based along the country’s lengthy coastline. Similarly, as conflict continues to grow off-shore, the inland Somali militias continually increase their attacks on the Ethiopian forces—unheralded by U. S. aid—and African Union peacekeeping forces (de Blij ; Muller, 2010).
Piracy has long been occurring in Somalia, but most incidents involved smaller boats and did not gain the media’s attention. However, Somali pirates eventually began to target larger ships, freighters loaded with tanks and other weapons, massive oil tankers, and even cruise ships. Their sphere of activity expanded from the Gulf of Aden to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, thus making their impact a global issue (de Blij ; Muller, 2010). Somalia’s troubles and people sometimes spill over into Kenyan territory. Kenya already has been a victim of Islamic terrorism, which seriously impacted its tourist industry; since 2008, ships headed into and out of the port of Mombasa have fallen prey to Somali pirates, further damaging Kenya’s economy” (de Blij ; Muller, 2010). Piracy also invites more water pollution that greatly contribute to growing health issues; illegal fishing and industrial toxic waste dumping in the sea and coastline areas by outsiders; improper disposal of human and solid waste by local people affecting the public health; hunting and extinction of wildlife; and degradation of coastal zones.
Somewhat, as a result, vast marine resources are under unprecedented threat from overexploitation and pollution by outsiders (Mohamed, 2001). In addition, the Gulf of Aden, being flanked by a terrorist based Yemen and failed state Somalia, is especially dangerous as ships converge on the choke-point entrance to the Red Sea. The internet publication, Somalia: A New Approach, by Bronwyn Bruton (2010) argues that failed states provide fertile ground for terrorism, drug trafficking, and a host of other ills that threaten to spill beyond their borders.
She further explains that the issues in Somalia are a problem not just for Somalis, but for the United States and the world. In particular, Somalia providing a sanctuary for al-Qaeda has become another important concern, and piracy off the Somali coast, which affects vital international shipping lanes, remains a menace (Bruton, 2010). The combination of a failed state in Africa’s Horn, Islamic fundamentalism driven by local militants, al-Queda embroiled in the chaos, and pirates operating off the coast make this portion of the African Transition Zone a focus of international concern (de Blij ; Muller, 2010).
Methods to Thwart Piracy Several United States media centers for television, articles and publication, and internet websites lucidly vocalize many efforts to negate piracy. For example, warships from Russia, India, and the United States were among vessels trying to secure the vast maritime region off Somalia, but the “industry could not be easily shut down” (de Blij ; Muller, 2010). A popular question, “why do the people of Somalia commit piracy? ” Is asked when this controversial topic is discussed. It is natural to question if Somalis know that piracy is an illegal action.
Even though piracy is illegal, even in international law, there is much debate over the legal proceedings regarding the illegality of piracy. One of the most powerful objectives the Somali pirates have is to gain sustenance to preserve their life, and that of their families. To do this, they use modern tactical methods to gain control of a vessel, then treat the ship, its cargo and its crew as hostages and hold them for ransom; so, the ultimate goal is to gain money. Most of them believe they do not have any other option, rather than protecting the food for their children from foreign looters.
They have expressed their views through local and international media saying that foreign ships have exploited Somali natural resources and that the people of Somalia have a right to defend those resources (BBC News, 2009). Over the last twenty years, counter measures have been established to counteract piracy. For instance, warships from at least nine countries are now operating in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia in response to this threat at sea; unfortunately, this may have only shifted the problem.
In this working example, the oil tanker, Sirius Star, was attacked much further south of Somalia than most other vessels, and the entire area is now over a quarter of the Indian Ocean. It has now become impossible to police. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) is advising ship-owners to adopt measures such as having look-outs or travelling at speeds which would allow them to outrun the pirates (BBC News, 2009). The rewards these pirates seek are rich in a country, like Somalia, where there are no jobs and almost half the population needs food aid after nearly twenty years of non-stop conflict.
The Kenyan foreign minister estimates that pirates have received $150 million in ransom payments during their raids in 2009 (BBC News, 2009). Due to the international outcry, friendly forces, including the United States, have deployed naval vessels augmented with specialized military elements to combat and ultimately negate piracy around Somalia (de Blij ; Muller, 2010). However, the pirates move extremely quickly, often at night; so, it is often too late before preventative measures can be taken and many times before the raided crew realizes what happened.
Once the pirates have taken control of a ship, military intervention is complicated because of the hostages on board. There is also no international legal system for people accused of piracy, although some have been put on trial in Kenya, while one group was captured by French forces and taken to face justice in France. Some argue an international court is needed, backed by the United Nations, with perhaps even an international prison for those convicted (BBC News, 2009). Proposed Solutions and Management of Piracy Some major organizations like PBS mention how the U. S. an help Somalia better establish itself from a global standpoint. In an article, How Can the U. S. Help Somalia, by publicist, Joshua Foust for PBS (2010) argues that the hostile military approach and the flood of “developmental expert” intervention—especially those who are not well versed in local issues—over the last two decades should be avoided in the future. Instead, he presents tentative methods for the U. S. to implement “constructive criticism” which may help to motivate the people of Somalia to take lessons from the country’s most productive fragment of Somalia (Foust, 2010).
In her publication, author Bronwyn Bruton (2010) mentions a strategy of “constructive disengagement. ” She argues that the United States should signal that it will accept an Islamist authority in Somalia. Specifically, this will be contingent upon the U. S. not impeding international humanitarian activities and refrain from both regional aggression and support for their international struggle. However, she recommends continued airstrikes to target al-Qaeda and other foreign terrorists while concentrating on minimal civilian casualties.
She argues for a decentralized approach to distributing U. S. foreign aid that works with existing local authorities and does not seek to build formal institutions. Bruton advises against an aggressive military response to piracy, making the case instead for initiatives to mobilize Somalis themselves against pirates (Bruton, 2010). “Somalia: A New Approach takes on one of today’s most vexing foreign policy challenges, offering concise analysis and thoughtful recommendations grounded in a realistic assessment of U. S. and international interests and capabilities.
It is an important contribution to the debate over how to proceed in this most failed of states” (Bruton, 2010). This methodical approach to thwart piracy by Bronwyn Bruton is one of many voiced articles concerning the depth of the international uproar regarding piracy. Conclusion These ongoing acts of violence are a by-product of economic chaos, an unstable government, and greatly affect the shipping industry. Piracy has inflicted insurmountable hardship on the people of Somalia, increased the loss of wildlife, and has affected its entire ecosystem due to more water pollution.
Furthermore, it has caused loss of life, theft of cargo, and damage to ships. International forces have continually deployed tactical elements in response to these heinous crimes in the high seas, unfortunately to no avail. The lasting ill effects of piracy are daunting, and the shipping industry’s only response is to increase prices. In particular, shipping companies pass on the increased costs—security, higher insurance premiums, ransoms, and extra fuel for longer routes—in their fees and it eventually finds its way onto the international market; paid for by the consumer (BBC News, 2009).
References BBC News. (2009). Q&A: Somali piracy. Retrieved from: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/africa/7734985. stm BBC News. (2010). Somalia country profile. Retrieved from: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/africa/country_profiles/1072592. stm Bruton, B. E. (2010). Somalia: A new approach. Retrieved from: http://www. cfr. org/publication/21421/somalia. html CIA Factbook. (2010). Africa: Somalia. The World Factbook. Retrieved from: https://www. cia. gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/so. html de Blij, H.
J. ; Muller, P. (2010). Geography: realms, regions, and concepts. 14: 319, 336-337, 384. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons. Foust, J. (2010). How can the U. S. help Somalia? Need to Know on PBS: Voices. Retrieved from: http://www. pbs. org/wnet/need-to-know/voices/ how-can-the-u-s-help-somalia/3424/ Mohamed, A. E. (2001). Somalia’s degrading environment: Causes and effects of deforestation and hazardous waste dumping in Somalia. Somali Centre for Water ; Environment Retrieved from: http://www. banadir. com/a. htm