Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Somalia's navy commander tempers his criticisms of international counter-piracy efforts

Just over a week ago, the head of the Republic of Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) naval forces was quite critical of the way the international community has been dealing with piracy in the region. As I noted in an earlier post, Admiral Farah Omar Ahmed felt that foreign warships were "pretending" to watch over pirates, while, instead, engaging in illegal fishing themselves, or aiding private vessels doing likewise.

The idea that personnel on warships doing counter-piracy work have the free time to fish is wrong, as I've said before. Nations as diverse as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Spain, China, Russia, Japan, Iran and India have, among many others, been expending millions upon millions of dollars to dispatch forces to the region to try to stem the tide of pirate attacks. But the international community has also been providing great aid to both the shaky TFG as well as to ordinary Somalis living outside that political entity's control. Which perhaps explains why the admiral chose to recently temper his inflammatory comments.

Talking to reporters in Mogadishu Monday night, Adm. Farah Omar Ahmed is quoted in Newstime Africa as saying that the problem in combating piracy is really one of a lack of communication between his Somali naval forces and those of the international community. “The cooperation between Somali government and the international community to fight piracy is too little, while pirates are stepping up their attacks so this seems that the international campaign against Somali buccaneers will produce nothing,” Admiral Ahmed says in the report.

So apparently the onus, in his opinion, is back on us - the international community - to deal with the problem. His comments also coincide with the decision by the United Nations Security Council to renew for another year the authorization of member States and regional organizations (such as NATO or the European Union) to continue their efforts to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa. Agreed to unanimously by the members of the Security Council, the resolution allows for forces to, "[E]nter the strife-torn country’s territorial waters and 'undertake all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia' provided they have the transitional government’s consent." The last part of the UN statement means that foreign warships are still supposed to make a formal request to the TFG to come closer than 12 nautical miles. Hopefully, Admiral Farah Omar Ahmed will be amenable to any such requests, which are certain to come up in the near future.

Regarding the amount of aid that flows into Somalia from the international community, it may surprise many that even with the country's lawlessness, it is considerable. A couple of weeks ago, the African Development Bank offered up a grant of US$2 million to enhance the public management sector in Somalia, a portion of which is intended to improve the financial/banking elements. And on Monday, the United Nations said it would be seeking $689 million for humanitarian projects intended for 2010. That's right, $689 million. And that's down from this year's request, which is $849 million.

If interested, the official website of the TFG can be accessed by clicking here.

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