Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is Maritime Piracy Coming to an End in the African Horn?

Pirates holding the crew of the Chinese fishin...Image via Wikipedia

After the collapse of the Somali central government in 1991, the coasts of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden became breeding grounds for vicious maritime pirates despite joint international naval operations. Many analysts and even powerful governments whose merchant fleets fell victim to piracy and whose navies took part in the maritime endeavors meant to cleanse the Indian Ocean and Red Sea shipping lanes from the piracy menace saw the solution in the stabilization of Somalia. But that theory has been proven wrong by the navies of Malaysia and South Korea after lightning speed assaults carried out by the two nations' naval commandos successfully released two ships and their crew that had been held hostage by Somali pirates in the waters off the coasts of Somalia.

As a result of the maritime blitzkrieg conducted by the forces of the two Asia-Pacific nations, several pirates died during fire exchanges while a dozen surrendered and now await trial in Kuala Lumpur and Seoul respectively. In the meantime, the use of hard power as opposed to the soft power tactics employed by the commanders of the multi-national force in the past seem to be bearing fruit.

Recently, the media was abuzz with a French envoy's theorization that piracy elimination in Somalia depends on the capture of twelve powerful tribal elders who have been suspected of being behind the operation. Killing or apprehending the said piracy chieftains will only increase piracy activities because there are many unemployed elders and youth willing to sacrifice their lives to fill the vacuum.

It is preposterous and utterly outrageous to use private armies or mercenaries to fight piracy as previously envisaged by the current weak Somali transitional government. Piracy can be eliminated off the coasts of Somalia indefinitely only if the international community implements long-term concrete strategies in place.

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