Tuesday, April 19, 2011

As Somalia Crumbles

The international community's three-year effort to end piracy off the coast of Somalia is a waste of time; that was basically the message presented by the Foreign Minister of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Mohammed Abdulahi Omar Asharq, to an anti-piracy conference in Dubai on Monday. “The race between the pirates and the world is being won by the pirates,” Asharq told attendees at the conference, adding that, “it is ... clear that piracy can only be uprooted on land, where it grows and persists.”

Asharq is echoing a sentiment expressed by a number of military and piracy experts over the past few years (despite what Donald Trump may think): that so long as Somalia exists as a lawless state without a functioning national economy, the lure of the big money to be made capturing and ransoming ships along with the ability for pirates to operate from several port cities along the long Somali coast, piracy will continue in a big way in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden. But international anti-piracy efforts have concentrated almost solely on intercepting pirates at sea, not trying to bring order and security to pirate ports like Haradheere and Eyl. The attempt of restoring a national government to Somalia, the TFG, is woefully underfunded and militarily only supported by a mission of African Union peacekeeping troops drawn from a handful of nations. The military of the TFG/AU mission spends most of its time fighting against the al-Shabaab Islamic insurgency, leaving them unable to provide security in the port cities and rout out the pirates.

And indications are that there won't be a boost to the TFG coming anytime soon. Last week the region of Azania (also known as Jubaland) announced their break from the central government in Mogadishu, announcing that they had become a semi-autonomous region and naming their own president. This would make Azania/Jubaland the second semi-autonomous region in Somalia, along with Somaliland in the far north, which considers itself an independent nation, even if no one else in the world does. The new president of Azania/Jubaland announced his intention to battle the militants of al-Shabaab, though Foreign Policy notes that Azania/Jubaland may be less a case of people striving for self-determination and more a case of one country meddling in their neighbor's affairs. Kenya is said to be the driving force behind the creation of Azania/Jubaland. The Kenyans have become concerned about al-Shabaab spreading south from Somalia, creating Azania/Jubaland then could be a convenient way for them to send their troops in to battle al-Shabaab without formally invading Somalia.
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