The Troubled Waters of Somalia: Why Piracy is Making a Comeback

Published: March 21, 2024

For over a decade, international shipping breathed a sigh of relief as Somali piracy dwindled. Yet, dark shadows are creeping back across the Indian Ocean. The recent capture of the MV Abdullah, a Bangladeshi ship, by suspected Somali pirates, is a stark reminder that the fight against piracy is far from over.

This resurgence can be attributed to a confluence of factors plaguing Somalia. The nation is crippled by a suffocating economic crisis, fueled by political instability, internal conflicts, and extortion by terrorist groups. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukraine war have further exacerbated this economic despair, leading to a decline in much-needed foreign aid.

The situation in Puntland, a Somali state with a history of piracy, is particularly concerning. The Puntland administration struggles to pay its recently disbanded security forces, some of whom with prior experience in piracy, pushing them towards desperate measures. Furthermore, tensions with the federal government in Mogadishu have limited Puntland’s access to resources, creating a breeding ground for discontent.

Adding another layer of complexity are unconfirmed reports of collaboration between Somali pirates, the Yemeni Houthi rebels, and ISIS. This potential alliance, if true, poses a significant threat to global maritime security.

The hijacked MV Abdullah, captained by a former pirate and armed with anti-aircraft weaponry, heading towards the Somali coast, is a chilling symbol of this escalating threat.

The international community cannot afford to be a passive observer. Ignoring this resurgence will not only disrupt vital trade routes but could also embolden terrorist networks. A comprehensive approach is needed, combining efforts to address Somalia’s economic despair, fostering political stability, and strengthening international cooperation to patrol the high seas.

Mohamed Osman