Piracy off the shores of Somalia has recently garnered international attention due to the frequency and audacity of the pirates which operate with impunity from the Somali coast. Pirate gangs in the Indian Ocean as well as the Gulf of Aden operate with callousness and a flagrant disregard for international law in their quest for ransom. Massive vessels have been overpowered by ragtag bands of pirates intent on seizing these ships for the sole purpose of one day releasing them for a profit.
Somalia is a failed state and has been without a functioning government for more than two decades with warlords battling in the streets of Mogadishu, Baidoa and Beledweyne. Lawlessness has been a feature of the Somali condition since the early days of Civil War which ravaged the country, making it one of the poorest places on earth. Accordingly, rampant lawlessness is directly related to both the implosion of Somalia domestic security as well as the piracy problem off the coast of Somalia. Piracy in Somalia is an important policy problem with international ramifications.
What can the international community do to solve the piracy problems off of the Somali coast? Is there a role for international actors in solving this problem? If so, who should act? Do regional actors have a role in providing maritime security along the Gulf of Aden, and if so, do they have the means to safeguard the shipment of goods through this region? What roles can NATO and the European Union play in ensuring security along these troubled shores? Should the world’s military hegemon, the United States, act to ensure that international law is followed off the coast of Somalia?
These questions, and many more, will addressed with reference to the problems associated with piracy in Somalia. Seeking to address piracy in Somalia this dissertation aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of one of the world’s most persistent problems, underdevelopment and political instability. Are there linkages between political instability and the piracy problem in Somalia? Our analysis will begin with an overview of the Somali Condition with a focus on the antecedents to lawlessness and the factors influencing the relationship between poverty and political instability.
This section will also serve to introduce the Somali condition including the political, social and economic forces which have led to the problems we are seeing in Somalia today. Aiming to address these problems from an economic, political and military standpoint, the second component of this dissertation will look at the role of international actors in providing a short-term solution to the maritime security crisis afflicting the Somali coast. Who can provide peace and security to the coast of Somalia?
Do regional actors or European multilateral actors have the means to combat the threat of piracy? What role can the United States play in combating piracy emanating from Somalia? These questions and many more will be discussed in our analysis of the international response to Somali piracy. Now we turn to the analysis of the “Somali Condition” and the unique domestic situation in one of the world’s last failed states. 1. THE SOMALI CONDITION The African continent, although the cradle of humanity and endowed with vast natural resources, is home to some of the poorest countries on the planet.
Accordingly, Africa is characterized by a growing population and a basic lack of resources to sustain this high level growth. Seeking to explore poverty and malnutrition in Sub Saharan Africa through an analysis of the political and economic situation in Somalia, one of Africa’s poorest countries, the following will show the linkages between poverty and political instability. In the context of Somalia, it is apparent that political instability perpetuates economic stagnation and any attempts at resolving the poverty crisis in the region must address the political causes behind underdevelopment.
Underdevelopment breeds poverty in Somalia which is demonstrated through widespread malnutrition, low life expectancies and poor rankings in a variety of indicators of overall health. Endemic poverty is what drives violence and international piracy off the shores of Somalia. Aiming to address the linkages between underdevelopment and political instability and lawlessness, the following will explore the relationship between these two diverse, although seemingly interdependent phenomena. Does poverty breed political instability?
Are poor countries more prone to political violence and insecurity? What good is democracy if people remain poor? These questions and many more will be addressed with reference to the analysis below of the linkages between democracy and political stability. An analysis of the political and economic situations of Somalia will explore the relationship between poverty and political instability and demonstrate whether the absence of democracy and hence political stability, breeds poverty and economic stagnation. Poverty, it seems is a universal feature of the global community.
What are the global ramifications of extreme poverty? Poverty, Democracy and Political Stability What is poverty and how can it be defined? The term poverty refers a deprivation of some sort that affects one’s quality of life. Poverty is often described in monetary terms and varies from country to country. Poverty thus is environmentally specific as the idea of poverty will differ in North America and Africa. Many developed countries use a low-income cut-off to gage poverty in their respective societies and a so-called poverty line can be useful for understanding poverty.
While very difficult to measure globally, the United Nations frequently uses the analogy of a dollar a day to refer to someone who is poor (for more information on the challenges associated with poverty measurement, see Amartya Sen’s Poverty: An Ordinal Approach to Measurement). What are the effects of poverty on individuals? People who are poor face a variety of challenges in their daily lives. Accordingly, poverty can lead to poor health, lower life expectancy and fewer life chances.
People who live in endemic poverty in much of Sub Saharan Africa frequently live off less than $1 per day and subsist on a diet which is low in protein, nutrients and essential vitamins. Poverty compromises the lives of those it touches and is serious health hazard across the globe. How does one define political stability? Theoretically speaking, the term is notoriously difficult to define and definitions will necessarily vary. Nonetheless, it is integral that the concept of political stability be defined for the theoretical purpose of this essay.
Political stability in much of the world is defined as the establishment of democracy and democratic rules of governance. By giving everyone a voice, the argument follows that the political regime will be perceived as being legitimate and political stability will be the result. Furthermore, Leon Hurwitz explored four conceptions of political stability and defined it as: 1) the absence of violence, 2) the duration of government, 3) the existence of a legitimate political regime, and 4) the absence of structure change.
Since this definition is comprehensive it will guide an important component of this essay as well as complement the overall analysis of Somalia today. Situated on the easternmost tip of the Horn of Africa, Somalia is one of the world’s poorest countries with a per capita GDP of $600 (2007 estimate). In fact, in a global GDP per capita ranking by the US Central Intelligence Agency, Somalia scored last out of a total of 216 countries. Also that year, Somalia’s estimated official Gross Domestic Product was estimated to be a mere $2. 483 billion. Political Situation
Following renowned scholar Leon Hurwitz’s definition of political stability, Somalia today is an incredibly unstable country, beset by extreme violence and lacking central authority in the form of a national government. Hurwitz explored four conceptions of political stability and as a refresher, defined the term as: 1) the absence of violence, 2) the duration of government, 3) the existence of a legitimate political regime, and 4) the absence of structure change (149-163). Is Somalia a violent place? Yes, in fact Somalia, along with Iraq, is one of the most dangerous and violent countries in the world.
The life expectancy of the average Somali today is 47 years for men and 49 years for women. According to Time Magazine: Since the collapse of the last functioning government in 1992, Somalia has been a prisoner of bloody anarchy, a void filled by vicious and impressively armed chaos, as rival warlords, clans and sub-clans and Islamists prosecuted a series of civil wars — over power, over historic tribal animosities and over competing visions of Islam. How durable is the Somali government? According to Mohammed Hussein Farah Aidid, former warlord and Somalia’s new Deputy Prime Minister, “It’s a symbolic government.
Permanence we do not have. We do not have institutions; we do not have a credible force. Unless [we receive outside assistance] quickly, we have no chance of building a nation. ” Is the current Somali regime legitimate in the eyes of the Somali public? The British Broadcasting Corporation reports that “Somalia has been without an effective central government since President Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991. ” (BBC Somalia Country Profile, 2008). In fact, chaos, anarchy and factionalized fighting between warlords have been the normative state of affairs in Somalis for more than 15 years.
The current government – known as the Transitional Federal Government – headed by former warlords President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein was installed in Mogadishu by Ethiopian forces in December 2007. Ethiopia has historically been the traditional enemy of Somalia and this is certain to hurt the credibility of the current regime among Somalis. It must be noted that chaos remains supreme and the transitional authority is unable to maintain law order. Its current grasp on power is tenuous at best. Has Somalia experienced recent structural change?
The Somali state imploded following the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991. Civil ensued and resulted in total Somali institutional collapse. All institutions of governance (the security services, the judiciary, the economy) ceased to function in any coherent capacity. Recently, attempts have been made to install a Transitional Governing Authority but the traditional pillars of government (legislature, executive, and judiciary) do not presently exist in Somalia (BBC Country Profile, Somalia, 2008). The Somali government is totally lacking in democratic credentials and is not conceived of as a legitimate political force.
Economic Situation As with GDP, unemployment and inflation in Somalia are difficult concepts to quantify and measure. While it is known that there is extreme poverty and unemployment in Somalia, actual numbers are hard to come by. In fact, in its annual Human Development Report for Somalia, the United Nations was unable to measure unemployment in Somalis and listed it as “not available” (HDI, 2007/2008). Despite this estimates exist and in 2005 the World Bank reported that Somalia’s labor force was an estimated 4. 6 million (or 56% of the country’s total population) with a whopping urban unemployment rate of 66%.
A figure for inflation, as a measure of the annual increase in consumer prices, is equally hard to measure and is absent in the literature. Somalia’s total lack of functioning government and institutional capacity inhibits economic growth and the result is one of the world’s smallest GDPs per capita. Accordingly, in its annual Index of Economic Freedom 2008, the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation made the conscious (and conspicuous) decision to omit Somalia due the complete absence of the rule of law, stating that “economic freedom in Somalia is impossible to analyze” (Holmes et al, 2008).
Internationally renowned and well-respected British periodical The Economist followed suit and omitted Somalia in its annual economic rankings, The World in 2008. Political Stability and Poverty? There is a direct and very strong relationship between a lack of political stability, articulated in the West through democratic government, and poverty. The case of Somalia emphatically shows that the absence of democracy or the rule of law breeds poverty and overall societal deprivation.
Poverty and malnutrition are features of the Somali experience and are caused by an absence of political authority and a precarious – some would say non-existent -political system. This analysis of Somalia has demonstrated that political stability and democracy are integral to the alleviation of poverty and lawlessness. The acts of piracy perpetrated with impunity off the shores of Somalia are a response to political instability and poverty. 2. INTERNATIONAL ACTORS AND SOMALI PIRACY Can a short-term solution be found to the international problem of piracy off of the Somali coast?
First and foremost it has become apparent that due to the anarchic nature of the Somali state it is imperative that international actors intervene to establish a modicum of control over the dangerous waters of Somalia. Due to the fact that Somalia does not have a functioning, nor representative state, which international actors should be involved in safeguarding the waterways? Can the oil producing countries of the wealthiest multilateral organization in the region, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) safeguard the waterways?
Is there a role for the GCC to play in providing security to international ships, many which are used to transport oil, in local waterways? What other international actors can/should be involved in a short-term solution to a problem with international ramifications? Can NATO and the European Union participate in a joint security mission against piracy? Is there such a precedent? Does the United States, as the world’s most powerful military force, have a role to play in safeguarding the Somali coast?
What role will the American legacy in Somalia have in determining whether or not the United States chooses to intervene in the region? And finally, is the United Nations the proper international organization to promote peace and security in the waters off the coast of Somalia? Can this international actor provide security in the troubled international waters? These questions and many more will be analyzed in depth with respect to a short term solution to the problem of piracy in Somalia and the need to facilitate international maritime traffic in the face of piracy.