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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Several Views on Dealing With Piracy in Somalia

Roger Middleton - The Independent, 18 February 2009:

International navies are patrolling Somali waters looking for pirates. This action, while welcome, is only addressing the symptoms of Somalia’s collapse. It is not a solution to piracy and nor will it resolve Somalia’s instability. If we want to secure the sea and contribute to peace in Somalia we need imaginative approaches. What Somalia needs more than a naval force is an international coastguard. Sending navies to fight piracy in Somalia is a way of being seen to take the “right” kind of action but with minimal risk to life or equipment.

However, it does not alter the fundamental factors driving people into piracy; the ability to make thousands of dollars per operation, in a country with a GDP per head of $600 is far greater than the disincentive of arrest.

Piracy cannot be defeated by navies. That can only happen when law is established and alternatives are presented to the pirates. Navies can certainly help to contain piracy and do perform an indispensable role protecting the delivery of food aid, but they cannot end this problem from the sea. A coastguard, however, is better designed for what is a law and order issue, and as part of a comprehensive approach to Somalia’s instability offers a real prospect for progress.

Why are so many nations then sending their ships and sailors to the eastern Indian Ocean? Some say they are attempting to protect fishing fleets trawling for tuna – pirates have often used illegal fishing as an excuse – but they are drawn by the money and not a desire to protect coastal fishermen.

Somalia’s problems are greater than piracy. It is chronically unstable and dangerous and millions of its citizens need humanitarian aid. The naval presence off Somalia’s coast is a good thing for sailors and shipping companies; it makes them less likely to be attacked and means that someone will be on hand during any period in captivity. The fundamental causes of piracy are not being addressed however: there must be a political settlement on land. A coastguard that combats piracy and protects Somali fishing could be the waterborne element of a wider diplomatic strategy to bring peace and stability to Somalia.

Jeffery Gettleman, New York Times, 05 February 2009:

NAIROBI, Kenya — The saga over the Ukrainian arms freighter hijacked off Somalia’s coast more than four months ago drew to a close on Thursday almost exactly the way the pirates had predicted: with the booty.

According to the pirates and maritime officials in Kenya, the ship’s owners paid $3.2 million — in cash, dropped by parachute — and on Thursday evening the last of the heavily armed pirates made their way off the ship.

“The fact that this took so long, that’s not good,” said one of the pirates, Isse Mohammed, in a telephone interview. “But we got the cash in hand, and that’s good. That’s what we’re interested in.”

Mr. Isse added that his gang would continue “hunting ships” because “that’s our business.”

But first, Mr. Isse said, he had to escape. Ever since the Ukrainian ship was hijacked by Somali pirates in dinghies, it had been ringed by American warships determined to keep the pirates from unloading the weapons.

Mr. Isse said that the pirate leaders were divvying up the money in Xarardheere, a notorious pirate den near the ship’s anchorage, and that he and his colleagues had deputized young gunmen to stay aboard until all the pirate leaders had gotten away. Only then, he said, would the ship be released.

Late Thursday, Viktor Nikolsky, the acting captain of the ship, called the Faina, said it was finally under the protection of the United States Navy and would head to Mombasa, Kenya, the Associated Press reported.

More than 100 ships have been attacked in Somalia’s pirate-infested seas in the past year, but no hijacking has attracted as much attention as this one. It stirred fears of a new epoch of piracy and precipitated an unprecedented naval response. Warships from China, India, Italy, Russia, France, the United States, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Greece, Turkey, Britain and Germany have all joined the antipiracy campaign.

The Ukrainians’ doomed voyage began in late August, when the Faina departed the Ukrainian port of Oktyabrsk, near the Black Sea, bound for Mombasa. It was a tall, lumbering freighter. Its captain was Russian and its 21 crew members were mostly Ukrainian. Its cargo was secret.

On Sept. 25, the Faina broadcast an S O S. Three small speedboats were heading straight at it fast — the typical pirate swarm.

On Sept. 26, the news broke: The Faina had been hijacked 200 miles off Somalia’s coast, and its cargo, revealed reluctantly by the Kenyan government, included 33 T-72 Soviet-era tanks, 150 grenade launchers, 6 antiaircraft guns and heaps of ammunition.

American officials worried that Islamist insurgents ashore could get the weapons and drastically change the dynamic in Somalia, where a weak transitional government has been trying to resist militant Islamist groups.

By early Thursday night, United States Navy officials said no weapons had been unloaded. But witnesses ashore reported pirates removing grenade launchers. Mr. Isse said the pirates had tossed some antiaircraft guns overboard “so we can get them later.” He seemed unaware of saltwater’s corrosive effects.

The pirates always said they were in it for the money — initially they had demanded $35 million. There were mixed reports about their treatment of hostages. The captain died mysteriously after a few days, which the pirates attributed to illness. They kept his body in a refrigerator.

The destination of the weapons remains unclear. The Kenyan government says that it owns them, but the pirates and Western officials have said that the arms are destined for former rebels in southern Sudan and that Kenya was the transit point.

Piracy is a huge business in Somalia, which has limped along since 1991 without a functioning central government. Many maritime officials have criticized ship owners who pay ransoms, saying that only leads to more attacks.

Hugh Fitzergerald - New English Review, 05 February 2009:

You have armed men on every ship. You blast every small boat out of the water if it comes within several hundred yards. You do not pick up survivors. You locate, and then bomb from the air, the villas of all known pirates (agents on the ground can locate them), and all of their relatives,their friends, their relations. You do this, again and again. You seize their assets in banks. You prevent them from leaving Somalia. You prevent their relatives from leaving Somalia. You make their lives hell, and the piracy comes to an end the way other cases of piracy have been brought to an end. The only other way is to seize the whole country, the way the French felt compelled, after decades that followed centuries, of enduring the Barbary Pirates, to do in 1830 with Algeria. But that, today, is not desirable nor practical. From afar, from the air, but making sure that no pirate is left to enjoy his loot, either because his loot (and what it paid for) has been destroyed, or because he has.

Tiger - Feline Equality and Diversity Co-ordinator for Infidel Enterprises: Yeah, what Hugh said. Now, where's my tuna?

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