If you ever felt
this whole saga of these invincible maritime desperadoes getting
away with the most fantastic piracy operations along the Somali
coast is so incredibly bizarre, you are not alone.
of what many media groups have sensationally been reporting, there
is not enough information available to adequately explain the nature
of this high sea drama or to pinpoint all those who are involved.
However, there are some, state and non - state actors, who are openly
positioning themselves to be the beneficiaries.
said, let there be no mistake, the pirates are real. And, like chemical
waste dumping, illegal fishing, weapon smuggling, drug trafficking,
illegal oil exploration, illegal human trafficking, and a host of
other criminal activities, piracy is a thriving business in Somalia.
These lucrative enterprises have steadily soared in the past two
decades while Somalia was rapidly
descending into a deadly spiral of anarchy.
that period, Somalia experienced only six months of relative
peace and order in 2006 before the Washington-backed Ethiopian invasion
abruptly ended the Islamic Courts Union rule and caused Somalia to sink into its worst
political and economic conditions. Today, with over a million IDPs
(Internally Displaced Persons) and a total of over three million
people being on the verge of starvation, Somalia is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Yet, with its 1,880 mile coastline and its vicinity to the Middle
East and Bab Al-Mandab - one of the world’s most critical trade
arteries - Somalia
still remains the most coveted strategic space.
influence in The Horn (of Africa) has been on a steady decline since
pulling its troops out of Somalia in 1994, following that infamous episode
known as “Black Hawk Down.” But,
now that a whole new geopolitical dynamic is rapidly developing
in the Middle East and The Horn, for example, the increased volatility
of the Middle East as Israeli-Iranian tensions increase, and China’s
multi-billion dollar oil deals with various African nations, Washington is compelled into a Cold War-like maneuvering for influence.
dominance throughout the region in terms of land, water, and air
is the name of the game - a game that historically shattered the
region’s aspirations for peace, co - existence and development.
National Intelligence Council’s report, Global Trends 2025, projects
that the U.S. will have competitions in its role as the
world’s most influential nation.
to the report, as a result of their rapid economic growth, new influential
players such as Russia, China, India, and Brazil are not only going
to have “a seat at the international high table, (but) will bring
new stakes and rules of the game.” The NIC report also makes a daunting
projection that in the coming decade or two, powerful nations will
be competing for access to resources essential to survival: food,
water, and energy.
back to the pirates: if they did not exist, they would have been
invented! Their almost daily criminal activities have dwarfed all
other less covered criminal enterprises. This unintended consequence
of their actions is paving a way for the architects of chaos, the
so-called independent security contractors (ISC) - clandestine military
forces immune from all laws and accountabilities.
the American and European ISCs are actively out-maneuvering each
other to position themselves for hefty contracts to escort ships
through the troubled waters of Somalia and to fight piracy.
But, if history is a reliable mechanism to forecast political outcomes,
this all too familiar approach has only one plausible result, disaster.
in Somalia are said to have high-jacked
over 90 ships and vessels since January. Currently, there are over
a dozen ships parked along the coastal area of the north eastern
region of Somalia,
waiting to be bailed out with hefty ransoms. These high-jacked ships
include a weapon smuggling Ukrainian cargo ship carrying 33 Soviet-made
T-72 tanks, rifles and heavy weapons destined to Southern Sudan;
also, a super tanker bigger than three football fields carrying
2 million barrels of crude oil worth 100 million dollars to the
The latter was high-jacked near Mombasa,
Kenya in broad
you may want to restrain your inquisitive urges: How could these
village-dwelling thugs who wear macawis (cultural skirts)
for camouflage gear and dacas (flip-flops) for combat boots
pull such a sophisticated operations? How
do they execute with such precision and successfully high-jack a
new ship virtually every other day? How could they stealthily dodge
all the sophisticated land, sea, and air counterterrorism surveillances
stationed in and around the Indian Ocean?
no means are these high sea hooligans innocent. While they are,
on one hand, being used as a gambit or a pretext to geopolitical
positioning, they are partnering with international organized crime
and any other devils willing to make a deal.
for decades the Straits of Malacca (between Malaysia
and Sumatra of Indonesia) have been the leading area for piracy.
And, according to IMB (International Maritime Bureau) - an agency
that, among other things, monitors maritime crimes - the piracy
enterprise costs the shipping industry over 10 billion dollars per
year. Most shipping companies do not report ransoms they pay or
goods robbed for fear of having to pay high insurance premiums.
there are widespread anecdotal accounts of “wealthy businessmen”
from the U.S.,
Western Europe being sighted in remote areas of the piracy-infested
region. And the mightiest nations of the world continue to send
their war ships to “the world’s most dangerous waters”.
in Somalia cannot be solved militarily.
Solving this problem will require objective focus on the
root cause - the
political quandary that broke down law and order and made Somalia a free-zone
for crime, exploitation, and human suffering. A starting
point for the soon-to-take-office new U.S. Administration is to
put this issue on top of its foreign policy priority list and to
develop a sound policy toward Somalia.
Guest Commentator, Abukar Arman, is a freelance writer whose articles
and analyses have appeared in the pages of various media groups
and think tanks. Click here
to contact Abukar Arman.