Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thoughts on dealing with Somalia from the International Crisis Group

Daniela Kroslak and Andrew Stroehlein of the International Crisis Group (ICG) penned an op-ed piece in the Monday issue of The Globe & Mail newspaper titled "When it comes to Somalia, inaction is not an option". It's worth a look, as it is a given that if we're to really deal with piracy off the Horn of Africa (HoA), we have to address the problems plaguing Somalia that allow criminal activities to flourish there.

To most people, piracy in the region is now old news. Attacks are down and international naval forces are preparing to ramp down their presence in the region. The onset of the summer monsoon has a lot to do with the current situation, of course, so until the main piracy season resumes in Autumn - or an unfortunate Western crew is attacked in the interim by the predations still ongoing (albeit reduced) - attention will swing to other issues, in other places.

But as the ICG authors point out in their article, Somalia is on the verge of slipping into a full-blown civil war, something they call potentially "unprecedented, even by Somalia's grim and bloody standards." The recent arrivals of foreign fighters seeking to take part in what is increasingly becoming a jihad in the southern parts of the country adds another layer to the situation, as does the inaction of other nations in coming to terms with things.

Oddly enough, when Somali pirate attacks were making media headlines there was more interest in looking at Somalia itself than there is currently. Without the dramatic attacks on merchant vessels off the HoA, most have again forgotten Somalia and the Somali people.

This is a mistake, a terrible one that will come back to haunt us in the near future. As warships steam home, battles are waging ashore that pose the potential to destabilize the entire region. And out of that instability will arise the prospect of renewed and enlarged pirate activity. The international community has but a few months to address things ashore before our inaction leads to more pirate attacks on the seas.

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