This article looks at the recenthistory of conflict within Somalia; the conditions in which itspeople are currently living; humanitarian concerns and the effortsof aid agencies; the role of the United Nations; internationalnaval action being taken against piracy; and a method of overcominglegal and policy difficulties in prosecuting capturedpirates. Attention focuses on piracy Two things are well known aboutSomalia from recent newspaper reports, magazine articles, Internetpages, and radio and television broadcasts. First, it is avirtually lawless country which has been without proper governmentsince 1991. Secondly, a small number of its people have sodisrupted merchant shipping off its coasts that warships fromtwenty or more nations have been mobilised at vast expense to tryto prevent vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean frombeing hijacked. Attacks by heavily-armed Somali pirates createheadlines, with sensational incidents such as the capture of theUkrainian ro-ro Faina (carrying 33 ex-Soviet battle tanksand other weapons), and the recently released VLCC SiriusStar, providing news for weeks on end. But in reports of theintrigue surrounding the sale and the intended destination ofFaina's cargo of heavy weapons, and speculation as tothe value of the 2 million barrels of crude oil on SiriusStar, what has often been under-stated is the cost in humanterms of the sufferings of the crews and the effect of theircapture upon their families. And even further away from thoseheadlines are the appalling conditions in which most of the Somalipeople themselves have been living year after year. Conflict and instability in Somalia In 1992, the year after the fall ofthe military dictatorship of General Siad Barre, who had ruled thecountry since assuming power in 1969, the United Nations SecurityCouncil by Resolution 751 (1992) established an operation inSomalia ("UNOSOM"), and appointed a dedicated SecurityCouncil Committee. The operation was to monitor the ceasefire thenachieved between warring factions in Mogadishu, while the Committeewas to monitor the embargo placed earlier in the year on the importof weapons and military equipment. Later, from December 1992,coalition forces led by the United States—a United TaskForce known as "UNITAF"—intervened underUNOSOM, in a mission intended to create a secure environment forthe delivery of humanitarian aid to relieve starvation in Somalia.Then, from May 1993 until March 1995 UNITAF was succeeded by UNOSOMII, charged with restoring peace, stability, and law and order.UNOSOM II was supported by troops of a United States' JointTask Force. Overall, however, the missions were failures, althoughthere were some humanitarian achievements. There have followed years offighting throughout much of Somalia, with the country noweffectively divided into three main regions: since 1991 Somaliland,a self-declared republic (but not recognised internationally)occupying part of the northern coast adjoining Djibouti; since 1998Puntland, a self-declared autonomous state that has not soughtindependence, occupying the remaining part of Somalia'snorthern coast and the northern part of the eastern coast; with theremaining part of the country notionally under the control of theTransitional Federal Government ("TFG"), established in2004. In reality, however, the TFG is ineffective and power islargely in the hands of local secular warlords and militant Islamicgroups (as is clear from, for example, the Report of the UnitedNations Security Council's Monitoring Group on Somalia, dated10 December 2008). Until recently, large parts of the south of thecountry were controlled by the Islamic Courts Union("ICU") and the US-proscribed terrorist organisationAl-Shabaab. In 2006, armed forces ofEthiopia—Somalia's main westernneighbour—entered the country to support the TFG. Therefollowed clashes with the ICU, which was routed in early 2007.Subsequently, new Islamic militant groups have formed, and havebeen in armed conflict with the TFG. The latest development is thatthe Ethiopian force departed in January 2009; it has not beenreplaced; and the few remaining African Union troops areinsufficient to ensure stability. Life in Somalia Meanwhile, the ordinary populationof Somalia, comprising 8-9 million persons, continues to suffer.Less than 40 per cent of the adults are literate; with thecountry's economy based largely on agriculture, includinglivestock, the estimated gross domestic product is under £300a head (the UK equivalent is about £20,000); and it isestimated that nearly half of the population is starving. In areport published in 2007, the Minority Rights GroupInternational—a non-governmental organisation working tosecure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minoritiesand indigenous peoples worldwide—identified Somalia asthe most dangerous country in the world for minorities, andattributed the root cause of conflict within the country tointer-clan rivalries. Subsequently, ForeignPolicy magazine, in their 2008 report, ranked Somalia as themost unstable country in the world (worse even than Afghanistan,Iraq, Zimbabwe and Sudan). And the 2008 Ibrahim Index of AfricanGovernment—published by the Mo IbrahimFoundation—ranked Somalia as the clearly worst performerin Africa judged in the categories of Safety and Security; Rule ofLaw, Transparency and Corruption; Participation and Human Rights;and Human Development. The December 2008 Displaced PopulationReport, published by the United Nations Office for the Coordinationof Humanitarian Affairs ("UNOCHA"), put the number ofpersons within Somalia who had been displaced as a result ofinstability in the country at 1.3 million. Of these, an estimated1.1 million are within south and central Somalia and aroundMogadishu, where the humanitarian situation continues todeteriorate, and where there have been massive civilian casualties.The UNOCHA reported that Ali Sheikh Yassin, acting chairman of theMogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organisation, claimed that TFGsecurity forces had terrorised the population, and that his grouphad verified 16,000 civilian deaths and 30,000 injuries during 2007and 2008, with many more people unaccounted for. In addition, thereare weekly reports of aid workers being...
Somalia, The Gulf Of Aden, And Piracy
|Author:||Mr John Knott|
|Profession:||Holman Fenwick Willan|
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