Saturday, 4 October 2008

The World Arms Pirates While It Disarms Somaliland Navy

The International community’s imprudent strategy of giving millions of dollars to pirates for ransom while refusing to provide tangible trainings and equipments for Somaliland navy because of fears that such a move would tantamount to recognition has resulted triple disasters—not only for the people of Somaliland, but also for the vessels sailing through the Gulf of Aden and for the region itself. Never before has the economic lifeline of Somaliland—exporting livestock to the Middle East—been threatened by pirates. Never before has the world seen so many hijacked ships and their crews suffering in the hands of pirates. Never before has the Golf of Aden faced environmental catastrophe. Thanks to the millions of dollars paid for ransom to free ships and their sailors. Few foreign sailors may have been set free, but the economic backbone of millions of Somaliland people as well as the safety of the Gulf of Aden face uncertainty. And the danger—environmental disasters—is growing by the minute. It is now clear that the ransom paid to pirates is equivalent to nearly Somaliland’s yearly budget. The shipping authority, Lloyd's List, warns that “ransom paid to pirate raiders off Somalia could spiral to $50 million this year, fueling copy cat attacks.” Most of this money would be spent on hiring more hijackers—they are now numbering over 1000 strong men—buying sophisticated speed boats and the state of the art weapons through the black-market. Soon pirates would be a fearless force to reckon with, in the Golf of Aden. On the other hand, in 2007 Somaliland’s modest yearly budged was only $55 millions. Worse yet, unlike the pirates it doesn’t have millions of dollars at its disposal. Additionally, because of the U.N. arms embargo imposed on Somaliland, it cannot buy weapons to defend its territorial waters. Yet the international community continually enjoys Somaliland’s cooperation in combating “terrorism” and piracy. Evidently, despite Somaliland’s meager resources, it is has launched its own anti-piracy covert military operations and apprehended pirates where a court convicted them. And unlike the Somali Transitional Government TFG and Puntland—the epicenter of sea piracy, Somaliland is known to launch strikes against pirates and human-traffickers in its territory. (Somali Regime: Epicenter of Sea Piracy U.N. slams Puntland leaders for having connections with pirates ) And clearly Somaliland’s bold moves against piracy and human-trafficking explain why its coast remains safe despite sharing both land and sea borders with Puntland. But things are now changing for worse. Currently, Somaliland navy patrols its waters, escorts ships loaded with livestock from its ports to safe areas, and meets cargo ships destined to Somaliland ports in highs seas. But pirates should by now have more boats and weapons than Somaliland navy has. Additionally, if pirates get away with it, soon their deadly arson will include 33 T-72 tanks—far more tanks than probably Somaliland has—rocket launchers and other weapons. And this changes the whole equation. The fast-growing number of pirates and the enormous cash at their disposal promoted Somaliland president to seek help from Europe. Alarmed or frightened by the power of pirates, recently President Dahir Riyale Kahin quickly flew to France, Germany and Britain as to shore up support for combating piracy which now threatens Somaliland’s economy and soon will choke its lifeline—exporting livestock—if immediate action is not taken. Multinational navies increase their presence in the Golf of Aden, and so do pirates The Europeans, Americans, Russians, Indians, and Indonesians, among others, have deployed their navies to Somalia’s waters as to fight piracy off, but to no avail. As it seems, as the number of foreign navies moving into Somalia’s sea waters increases and so does piracy. This is odd, isn’t it? But does anyone wonder why? Like any other problem, the best approach to piracy is to study its root-cause and then cooperate with the locals. In the Somali world, piracy effects Somaliland, TFG and Puntland in different ways. While the TFG and Puntland clearly benefit from piracy and human-trafficking, Somaliland suffers because of chaos in high seas. Clearly, Somaliland is the only authority capable of curbing piracy—provided that its navy is modernized to meet the challenges that piracy poses—but also Somaliland is the only effective government in the area. So what is the world waiting for, you may ask? Rebuilding Somaliland Armed forces could pose a real challenge for pirates—a far more threat than multinational navies could pose. What a ludicrous claim to make, you’d think? Evidently, the International forces would rather fire few missiles from a ship or from a helicopter than fight on the ground and get their hands dirty. And the cost of maintaining hundreds of International war warships in Somalia’s volatile waters could amount to billions of dollars. To the contrary, Somaliland holds the key to solving mayhem in high seas. For one thing, Somaliland forces require a fraction of the money that the world currently spends to battle against piracy and pays for ransom, in the Golf of Aden. For another, due to Somaliland’s indispensible expertise in the region, its people and its trains, its army would be able to launch air, ground, and naval attacks against pirates’ bases deep in Puntland and in Somalia, before pirates attack ships in the Golf of Aden. Undoubtedly, any way you look at it, rebuilding Somaliland’s armed forces is not only a cost-effect strategy to curtail piracy, but it will also bring a far better result than the multinational navy forces could deliver. However, rarely ever do military approaches alone work without offering an alternative economic incentives to those who are involved in piracy. Just as military strategies alone failed to eradicate terrorism, and so will they fall short to prevent piracy. But reconstructing the devastated Somali fishing communities, providing local fishers training and fishing equipments, cleaning up the toxic waste dumped as well as stopping the incursions of illegal foreign fishing fleets into Somalia’s sea waters, is yet another effective tactic to minimize piracy in the region. This strategy will give the Somali pirates a reason to be decent citizens again. Also, the world must not ignore the impending environmental disasters looming on the Golf of Aden. All it takes for the pirates is to attack a gigantic oil tanker and pierce a hole through its massive oil tank with a bullet from a machinegun. In short, give Somaliland what it deserves and watch piracy dwindle before your eyes. The alternative is to carry on the status queue: keep Somaliland’s hands tight behind its back, pay millions of dollars to pirates for ransom, and kiss goodbye to the Golf of Aden. And surely, the closure of the Suez Canal will soon follow. The choices are clear. The world must act now. Dalmar Kaahin javascript:top.opencompose('

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