The EU’s capacity building division has delivered more training and equipment to the Somali coastguard in Mogadishu, although experts warn that the trained officers should also be paid if maritime security efforts are not to fail.
EUCAP Nestor (Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean) has delivered six Nissan 4×4 vehicles and IT and communications equipment such as computers and GPS devices to enhance on-shore capability and connectivity. Training in navigation and basic maritime investigation has been given over the last 12 months.
The future role of the developing Somaliland coastguard in the security and development of the region was discussed at a high level meeting in April. Hosted aboard the EU Naval Force flagship, HNLMS Johan de Witt, it was attended by representatives from Somaliland authorities, international partners, and non-governmental organisations.
However, an expert on Somalia, Dr Stig Hansen, told IHS Maritime that failing to ensure good, regular wages for prison guards and custodial officials was one area where international development efforts continued to fail the region.
Hansen, who conducted field research in Mogadishu during 2005-14 and is the author of Al Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group, 2005-2012 (Oxford University Press, 2013), said, “It’s the biggest crime in Somalia for the last 10 years: raising armies, raising police, raising custodial officials, and not paying them. This helps piracy a lot and it helps Al Shabaab a lot.”
He said presidents had performed inconsistently when it came to guaranteeing good, regular pay to security sector employees. He pointed out that if officers were not paid, the institutions they were trained to uphold simply did not exist. The risk is that unpaid security players will not uphold the law and may actively act against it.
“It’s a time bomb for when you withdraw the navy and security measures offshore,” said Hansen, who added that officers had in the past turned to piracy because they had not been paid.
“This way, the UN has participated in training the pirates. This is straight idiocy,” he said.
Wages could easily be a condition of international development projects, said Hansen, who was puzzled as to why this had not been the case to date.
“There is a lot of commercial interest in the development sector,” said Hansen. “People who want to promote their projects and don’t want to scrutinise them properly. I am not talking about Somalis here, I am talking about non-African officials as well as African officials within these sectors.”
Programmes needed to be properly vetted locally, he said.
His views are supported by fellow Somalia expert Dr Brittany Gilmer, author of Political Geographies of Piracy: Constructing Threats and Containing Bodies in Somalia (Palgrave, 2014) and a former consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) high-profile regional office.
Gilmer told IHS Maritime that development projects, including the prisons built to hold pirates, tended to increase internal tensions by ignoring cultural and political realities.
With the counter-piracy story evolving into the broader one of maritime security and development in the Horn of Africa, Gilmer said efforts are geographically mismatched.
Contradictions include development projects that are launched in areas with better security (Somaliland, Djibouti) to prevent people turning to piracy: innocent populations are thus labelled as potential pirates, creating a “pirate craze” where a potential pirate is more likely to win counter-piracy-related development projects, said Gilmer. Innocent people living in less secure areas such as Puntland do not benefit, while ex-pirates do, under rehabilitation and jobs programmes.
More perilously, some projects threatened to increase internal tensions by failing to take into account cultural and political realities, say Gilmer and Hansen.
Pirate prisons are an example. The strong clan system in Somalia means that every official or individual has clan loyalties and obligations. Prisoners will be granted “amnesties” from their clan leaders and disappear, said Hansen.
“You need to have a wide dialogue that includes the clans because, make no mistake about it, the clans are able to give amnesties to the people inside the prisons. That prisons inside Somalia are not clan-based is just an illusion,” he said.
Gilmer agreed. “A clan leader once told me: if you want to stop piracy, then let us implement our own system,” she said.
Meanwhile, clan politics hamper the new system. Gilmer recounted an experience at Hargesia prison in Somaliland. The prison refused pirates from Puntland, fearing retaliations, which have included Puntland pirates kidnapping Somaliland citizens in exchange for the release of prisoners.
“Government officials we were working with in Somaliland said if they took Puntland pirates it would increase tensions between the regions,” said Gilmer.
Clans have their own judicial system and traditionally, wrong-doers are dealt with by their clan leaders. The prison system takes this responsibility away from the clans, effectively undermining local regulatory structures.
“Clans need to have some kind of ownership of the justice process so that they will respect its workings. Otherwise it will not function,” said Hansen. “Local entities have very close connections with the clan systems in [their region] and can handle [the prisoners] better than another region could.”
Asked if development in one part of Somalia could thus offer jobs for people in other parts of the country, Gilmer said that free interflow of people between regions was hindered by clan divisions. “Where you place development projects is geopolitical,” she said.
Thus, while naval patrols offshore are “helping to keep Somalis in Somalia”, according to Gilmer, capacity building on shore is maintaining the status quo for the poorest and most vulnerable Somalis.
However, development of the Port of Mogadishu by Turkey’s Albayrak Group, announced in June, may offer hope for troubled south-central Somalia. A video of the plan at http://bit.ly/1elmOVN envisions the port cashing in on the 60% of world maritime trade that passes through the region.
Hansen said the facility could be the key port for central Somalia, regenerating its key exports of camels and goats to Saudi Arabia, and leading to expanded infrastructure generating alternative livelihoods. But, with security in the area extremely tentative, “it needs a long-term strategy”, he said.