Tackling the scourge of piracy


Lawless Somalia may not be pulling enough weight behind global efforts to curb maritime piracy. Two decades after the fall of its last dictator Siad Berre, it has exported remnants of its strife to the world in the form of modern piracy. Its youth have gone astray with job opportunities drying up and famine killing millions of its people.

Piracy may have ebbed in recent months, thanks to efforts of global naval coalitions like the EUNAVFOR, Combined Maritime Forces and Nato navies, but not much has changed on the ground back home in the badlands of the country on the horns of a dilemma in Africa. With little or no government in place, Al Qaeda-back Al Shabaab rebels run riot, killing at will, while those who survive take to a life of crime at sea.

A long-term solution is important to end piracy which costs the world economy some $7 billion annually, according to some estimates. The shipping industry paid $135 million as ransoms last year to pirates and safe commerce across the oceans faces continued threats in an already uncertain economic climate.

The latest report on the human cost of the phenomenon says the average length of captivity of crew of captured vessels is over 8 months, an increase of 50 per cent since 2010. The report by Oceans Beyond Piracy and the International Maritime Bureau says 1,206 hostages were held hostage by Somali pirates last year. Some ships have been held in captivity for two years with anxious families of the crew waiting in tears for their return.

Nations can no longer bear the human and economic costs of the scourge, and a political settlement to the Somali conundrum should be expedited. This will enable the deprived citizens of the country a chance to move on in an atmosphere of trust and security.
The UAE has shown the way by hosting the second counter piracy conference today. The meeting brings all stakeholders together to do more than just battle the sailing brigands. A systematic development programme must be set in motion in Somalia to keep its youth rooted at home and to spurn crime. Jobs, foreign investment and education are of importance to drive the growth engines of the impoverished country.

Somalia needs development, and a lifting of the political stalemate. The transitional government, whose mandate ends in August, must be given more military teeth to take on the pirates and dismantle their dens.

Plans for a new parliament are in place and factions in the country have agreed on a draft constitution. It is vital to build on these efforts and the world community must help Somalia in its hour of need. A solution on land can solve the problem at sea.





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