Is the end near for Somali piracy?
February 21, 2013
the spring monsoons approach, the Somali pirate season is coming to a close.
The big news is the failure of the pirates to complete a single successful
hijacking in the Indian Ocean this year.
is an encouraging sign that this scourge may finally have run its course. The
success of anti-piracy efforts is due to a number of causes, including the
almost-universal deployment of armed guards onboard commercial vessels in these
waters and the heavy NATO warship presence off the Somali shores. But neither
one of these efforts addresses the root cause of Somali piracy.
recent outbreak of piracy on the Somali coast began with the 1991-1992 civil
war and the subsequent disintegration of the Somali government. The kind of
piracy that aims to seize ships and crews for ransom requires safe havens for
hijacked vessels while ransoms are negotiated and paid. No legitimate
government will allow such pirate lairs. There are a number of corrupt governments
around the world that will seize ships on “nationalistic” pretexts — an example
is the Venezuelan government’s theft of an entire fleet of Tidewater oilfield
service vessels several years ago — but even Venezuela dares not offer private
actors (i.e., pirates) a safe haven for hijacked vessels.
developments in Somalia offer hope for an elimination of such havens. A
permanent federal government that was recently recognized by the U.S has
replaced the transitional federal government. Also, a U.S. embassy in Somalia
will soon open. Among other encouraging signs of stability in Somalia are the
current construction boom going on in the capital, Mogadishu, and a 100 percent
increase in the value of the Somali shilling against the U.S. dollar.
the semi-autonomous federal states of Galmudug and Puntland in the central and northern
areas of the country still lack the funds to fight piracy. Galmudug has no
coast guard or patrol boats and lacks a court and prison system to try and hold
piracy suspects. More disturbing is that two ships with over 50 hostages
onboard — reportedly including Michael
Scott Moore, a U.S. surf journalist from California — are still at
anchor off a stretch of the Galmudug coast under the control of an Al
Qaeda-linked insurgent group. So until Galmudug can get the help it needs to
regain control of its territory, it has little hope of putting a permanent end
to the hijacking of vessels for ransom along its shores.
an effective answer to Somali piracy is surprisingly simple: The international
community must provide the funds and technical expertise necessary to rebuild
Somalia’s shattered infrastructure. Galmudug’s dynamic new president, Abdi Awale
Qeybdiid, has brought together expatriate Somalis to pay for a prison that’s under
construction near the Galmudug capital of South Galcayo, and
schools are now being built throughout Galmudug. As for anti-piracy efforts
within Somalia, Winston Churchill once said, “This is not the end. It is not
even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”