Somalia Islamist government best hope against piracy

The big news coming from Somalia these days is the increasing number of naval forces meant to combat piracy at the Somali coast.

On Boxing Day, China sent three navy ships to join the United States, Britain, Russia, India, Malaysia, French and other forces. However, this will not solve piracy until the situation on mainland Somalia gets better. Unfortunately, the world is still in denial as far as the influence of Somali Islamists is concerned.

Regardless of their often brutal methods, Somali Islamists are currently the only force capable of restoring stability in Somalia and ending the piracy menace. Instead of spending billions of dollars on ineffective naval patrols, the international community should simply accept the forthcoming Islamic led leadership.

Just a few weeks ago, Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi super tanker thousands of miles away from the international naval armada. Once a ship is in the hands of pirates, there’s little that a navy can do without risking the lives of the captured crew. That again goes to prove that stability in Somalia is the best safeguard against piracy.

The international community still has incredible faith in the Somali Transitional Government even though it only controls the central town of Baidoa and parts of the capital. With Ethiopian soldiers expected to depart in coming days, the demise of the unpopular Transitional government is sealed.

While Islamist fighters sweep up the remnants of Somali government forces from the countryside, President Abdullahi Yusuf got into a fight with Parliament that led to his resignation. It is amazing that a government can fight itself even as its main backers are leaving. In any case, more than half of legislators and the Cabinet are permanent residents of neighbouring countries.

Ethiopian soldiers invaded Somalia in December 2006 for the same reasons they are leaving today: the Islamist movement had over-run the Transitional Government. The West and neighbouring governments such as Ethiopia and Kenya, are paranoid about Islamic movements. Military operations were supposedly meant to support President Yusuf but in reality, they were intended to vanquish the Islamists.

Ethiopian soldiers and US airstrikes overwhelmed Islamic fighters with sheer firepower. Kenya closed its borders to prevent escaping fighters – even refugees were stopped at the border. The final showdown in the 2006 war took place at Ras Kamboni, a coastal jungle on the borders of Kenya and Somalia. Fire from American AC-130 gunships devastated entire villages and few survived. Not even chicken were spared.

Drawing on Somali nationalism, the Islamists began an Iraq style insurgency in 2007. Ethiopia is widely resented by Somalis and the intervention, coupled with US airstrikes, was viewed as an occupation of Muslim land. Many in Somalia believe that Yusuf gets his orders from Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – another object of intense hatred in Somalia.

The militant Al-Shabab youth group took up the fight on behalf of the Islamists. What began as a low-level campaign of random explosions grew into a full scale war by mid 2008. It is said that fighting in Somalia in 2008 was the worst since the fall of the last Somali government in 1991. Large areas of the capital city, Mogadishu, were deserted by fleeing residents.

With a divided Transitional government, Ethiopia realized that the war is good as lost, hence its decision to leave.

Meanwhile, in a move that replicates previous mistakes, the African Union has called for African peace keeping forces to prevent the fall of the Transitional government. Few African countries have volunteered and only Uganda and Burundi heeded the previous call for troops. The AU peace-keepers are currently confined to the Mogadishu airport, which regularly comes under attack from the Al-Shabab.

The Islamists have always been against piracy, which they describe as unIslamic. During their 6 month administration back in 2006, piracy ceased when they raided pirate dens.

This might be the best opportunity to reduce piracy’s threat to international commerce by engaging in meaningful talks with the Islamists. After close to 20 years of chaos, an Islamic government in Somalia is better than no government at all.

Somalia needs 3 State solution

By Scott A Morgan

The concern that has been shown by various governments including the United States regarding piracy in the Gulf of Aden has merit. But such as in similar crisis situations, it seems that the West and other maritime interests would rather address a symptom of the problem instead of the root cause.

There has not been a functioning government in Somalia since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. Needless to say that there is no way to address social and financial problems that the struggling fishermen have. The breakdown in law and order in the country has created a situation where piracy has become a viable means to support families and communities.

So why have the Western and other powers suddenly become galvanized to take action in this situation? Well the numbers just happen to speak for themselves. In this calendar year, over 90 vessels have been seized in the Gulf of Aden. The payment of subsequent ransoms to free the hostages has netted the pirates an estimated US$150 million so far this year. So, several nations have deployed warships in an attempt to interdict this trade.

We have heard that this is an attempt to solve the piracy issue but what about the root cause? There have been several recent reports that indicate that the Transitional National Government (TNG) is on the verge of collapse. Its influence has been degraded to the point that it only maintains power in Mogadishu and Baidoa. If the TFG collapses as many expect, what will be the next course of action?

In early 2009, the breakaway region of Somaliland will hold elections for President and Parliament. This region has had a massive PR campaign to show that it is a stable part of Somalia. The region of Puntland has been aggressively targeting the pirates as well. The Islamists are in control of Southern Somalia meaning the old state of Somalia may not return at all.

If there is a solution that unites the perpetually clan-driven politics of Somalia into a central government, this would be welcome. But it appears that the two year long effort to have the TNG restore a legitimate government to Somalia is failing and could collapse in the near future. It is possible that if the TNG falls then the incidents of piracy could actually increase both in numbers and in the specific search of targets.

Whether or not the TNG fails may not be a bad option. Having three regional governments (Somaliland, Puntland and the Islamist South) with strong central powers and appropriate international backing and/or aid may be something that has to be considered. This could be the impetus for some form of intervention.

Failure to address the problem now could spread it to neighboring states such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea and Yemen. This will not be a problem that could be easily solved by throwing money at it. Instead, it requires some nation building but on a scale that is yet to be determined.

It appears that the easy answer is to have naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden. But when will the real issue be addressed?

Blackwater sending ship to Somali coast

By kenyanobserver on October 23, 2008

The recent piracy off the coast of Somalia that resulted in the hijacking of a Ukrainian ship carrying heavy artillery and tanks headed for Kenya has caught the attention of Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial North Carolina based, military contractor.

According to a Forbes article, Blackwater is in the process of assembling a naval fleet. The first ship with a crew of 14, the MV MacArthur, is scheduled to head to the Gulf of Aden sometime before the end of the year. Blackwater is known to provide military support on land and air, so apparently they are now looking for ships should the demand for this service rise.

Blackwater says that they have been contracted by private shippers to provide security and passage through this part of the Indian ocean now known as the most dangerous waterway in the world.

Somali pirates have been operating with impunity off Somali’s coast and have been making with millions of dollars from ransom money. It was just a matter of time before a solution such as this came up. Judging by what we have seen in Iraq, these pirates are in for some very interesting times indeed.

AFRICOM yet to rise to occassion

by Scott A Morgan

Even though it does not have a forward deployment base or a permanent location, the unfolding pirates saga in Somalia is an interesting way for AFRICOM to begin.

The Pentagon’s African Command or AFRICOM got off to a shaky start. Most African countries declined to host it soon after it was inaugurated by President George W. Bush to secure US interests in Africa. AFRICOM is the newest military command of the United States.

As efforts to restore a functioning government in Somalia continue to flounder, there has been an increase in piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping regions. The United States, among other nations, has deployed both naval and Special Forces to the region in an effort to curtail criminal and terrorist activity.

The vessel that was recently seized has intelligence specialists concerned not only about the cargo but where the cargo was eventually headed to. After all this is one of the most violent regions in the whole world, The MV Faina is a container ship of Ukrainian registry captured within the last two weeks. Part of its cargo was 33 T-72 main battle tanks.

Now a guessing game has begun. The pirates have demanded over $20 million in ransom. There are reports that the tanks were headed to Mombasa, Kenya. The Kenyan Government has stated they purchased the armor from Russia. There have been reports that the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) had acquired the weapons. US intelligence believes that this is an effort to go around the arms embargo against Sudan.

Let us look at these three scenarios: First of all, the Sudanese Government. This would not be the first time the Russian Federation has attempted to break sanctions against Sudan. As a matter of fact the Russians have supported Sudan in the UN on more than one occasion. so this is plausible but, if it were so, the armor could have been unloaded at Port Sudan.

What about the claims of the Kenyan Government? Well the armor was headed to a Kenyan port. This could give the claims some form of legitimacy. There are still concerns regarding abuse in the Mt. Elgon region to the west of the country but, on the whole, peace and stability are increasing in Kenya.  Unless the armor is meant to defend the northern border with Somalia and/or Ethiopia.

This brings us to the Government of Southern Sudan. This is an autonomous region of Sudan that fought a long protracted insurgency against Khartoum. There is still a level of distrust towards Khartoum to this very day. Also in recent weeks there have been clashes with the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) which is a Ugandan militia. The LRA was to have signed a Peace Deal with the Ugandan government after Southern Sudan negotiated a peace accord. When it came time to the signing ceremony, the LRA did not show.

With the armor being seized by pirates its possible that the tanks could end up being used in Somalia unless either ransom is paid or the vessel is liberated by naval elements that have surrounded the ship at this time.

********************************************
The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at morganrights.tripod.com
********************************************

Secret tank deal shows poor priorities

A secret tank deal by Kenya’s Army would have gone unnoticed if Somali pirates hadn’t hijacked a Ukrainian ship ferrying the 33 tanks to the port of Mombasa.

diesel, benzene and kerosene.

The Russian built T-72 tank can run on three types of fuel: diesel, benzene and kerosene.

Its not clear when the Department of Defence placed an order for T-72 tanks from Russia. The Army has not explained how much it spent on the equipment, neither has it explained the role of the 33 tanks in Kenya’s security strategy.

Apart from tanks, Somali pirates found tons of ammunition and auxiliary equipment within the ship, which they have threatened to offload for use in their country’s civil war. The pirates are demanding US$35 million in ransom before they release the vessel and its cargo.

Typical of most African governments, Kenya’s leaders are spending billions of dollars on security while ordinary people die of hunger, disease and poor shelter. Kenya ranks at the bottom of international social and economic indicators.

A growing population is putting pressure on neglected infrastructure. Public hospitals lack drugs as thousands of Kenyans perish each year on a road network broken to the point of tatters. Kenyan cities are going without fresh water due to lack of investment in water production.

The capital city of Nairobi is getting less water today than it was receiving a decade ago after a colonial era dam collapsed at Sasumua. The port city of Mombasa gets water from a supply system built by the British when the town’s population was less than a third of current figures.

Lack of investment in electricity production has made Kenya’s electricity tariffs the highest in Africa. Industries suffer from constant power blackouts which have undermined economic growth, leading to massive losses and job cuts.

Agricultural production in Kenya is far below demand. The country is producing less coffee, maize, tea, wheat, millet and everything else compared to twenty years ago. Sugar milling companies in Western Kenya, stuck with 19th century technology, are creaking out low quality sugar in significantly less quantities than when Kenya was a British colony.

Amidst all these, the Kenyan government has seen it fit to invest billions of shillings in military equipment. As stated earlier, if it wasn’t for Somali pirates, majority of Kenyans would never have known that tanks were about to get imported into the country. But, lack of priority in government procurement appears to be the norm these days.

Its been announced that Kenya will spend about $23 million in the purchase of second-hand fighter jets from the Kingdom of Jordan. The F-5 fighter that the Kenyan Airforce is so fond of went out of production in 1989, meaning that the jets Kenya is buying are at least 19 years old. Kenya will also pay Jordan to train its pilots in using the junk aircraft.

Meanwhile, other branches of the security forces are on a shopping bonanza. Regular and Administration police have enhanced their recruitment drives to boost numbers. They are receiving modern equipment, weapons, 4-wheel drive trucks, uniforms and riot gear. Considering the conduct of police during the post-election violence, its obvious that this enhanced expenditure is not for the benefit of ordinary men and women.

The Kenya Police has just finished rehabilitating giant Russian-built helicopters fitted with night-vision equipment, gun detectors and communications technology. The helicopters will carry a team of quick response officers assisted by highly trained dogs.

Just this week, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights – a government body – blamed police for the execution of 500 Kikuyu youth and the disappearance of scores of others. According to survivors, the dead and the disappeared were all abducted by people identifying themselves as police officers. A man whose dramatic arrest in Nairobi was shown on the front page of the Daily Nation, was later found dead in the city mortuary.

For most Kenyans, the acquisition of helicopters, night vision equipment and vicious dogs can only portend doom as far as personal freedoms are concerned.

By purchasing bigger weapons to arm a greater number of police and soldiers, the Kenyan government is treading a path set by authorities in situations of high wealth inequality. Kenya is among the top three most unequal societies on earth.

On one hand there is an extremely wealthy minority whose standard of living can comfortably secure them a place among the world’s rich and famous. On the opposite extreme is a majority of people without access to adequate food, housing, health care and education. These are people whose future is so bleak that the only options are crime, prostitution, alcoholism and violence.

Amidst this depressing scenario, authorities seek to preserve the status quo by unleashing greater surveillance of the disadvantaged majority. The objective is to make life safer and easier for the rich minority.

The fruits of economic growth are used to buy guns instead of building roads. Public funds are used to buy tanks instead of medicines for government hospitals. In an unequal society, the government will find it better to employ soldiers and police rather than employing doctors and teachers. Instead of facilitating constructive engagement between the rich and the poor, the system is designed to keep them apart.

Such trends have happened elsewhere and Kenya is blindly going down the same path. Unfortunately, that particular path usually ends up in self-destruction, for the human spirit cannot tolerate oppression forever.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 137 other followers