SOMALIA: Puntland Anti-piracy Initiative is laudable

Published: December 7, 2010

The United Nation’s response to the Puntland initiative to form anti-piracy force smacks of paternalistic approach to working with Somalis: it wants Somalis to use the United Nations’ expertise but it hardly shows desire to base policy formulations on local knowledge and facts on the ground but gives the impression that the UN torpedoes local initiatives.

“It’s a good thing that Puntland is training an anti-piracy force,” the Associated Press quoted Alan Cole, the head of the anti-piracy program at the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, as saying.

The UN “ wants the identity of the donor, the laws governing the force, how recruits are screened and the chain of command. Piracy is a more pressing issue that Somali authorities have got to deal with. How is the training for a local anti-piracy force aimed at eradiating pirates in Puntland comparable to warlord force being armed by an unknown country? That Eyl is no longer a pirate hub is down to the work of the current Puntland administration of president Abdurahman Farole. Should Puntland consult the UN on any initiative to tackle local challenges?
In 2009 Puntand and the Mogadishu- based Transitional Federal Government of Somalia signed an agreement of which setting up an anti-piracy base in Puntland was one of the points on which the Puntland and TFG agreed. TFG infighting has made the agreement still-born. On the south of Puntland, Somali pirates held a British couple hostage for one year but released them after ransom payment. Piracy thrives in places where traditional and political leaders wield little or no influence.
Puntland’s decision to set up anti-piracy force is a message to those emboldened by ransom payments to pirates and who may try to re-establish pirate bases in Puntland. Solutions to piracy can come from the land rather than sea. Now that Puntland has formed an anti-piracy force, it will be easier to study effectiveness of local initiatives to tackle piracy. Somali leaders know that pirates’ ultimate goal is to invest their ill-gotten gains in building power-base to undermine legitimate authorities.
The heartless pirates who held the British couple hostage for more than one year can stoop so low as to sell their illegal services to terrorists to blow up ships or destabilise peaceful regions. Local knowledge has been the best knowledge to tackling local threats and this why Puntland is right to look for other ways to form anti-piracy force that will enable it to hunt down pirates.
By: Liban Ahmad,
Liban Ahmad is the editor of Somalia Research Report

The author misattributed to Aln Cole a statement by Lt. Col. Tamara Parker, a Pentagon spokeswoman. Apologies to Alan Cole, and thanks to Katharine Houreld of AP for bringing this matter to the writer’s attention.

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