As if the violence on the ground in Somalia were not enough — thousands of civilians have been forced to flee after renewed clashes in the capital, Mogadishu, recently — the coast of the country is facing increasing danger from — yep, you guessed it — pirates.
These are no fanciful swashbucklers, though. The pirates have recently captured various European cargo ships, luxury yachts, and fishing boats, holding their crews and passengers hostage for one goal — money. The attacks on the high seas, then, are not merely a re-enactment of the ancient art of piracy; rather, they are deeply connected to the instability and suffering that have long run rampant on the mainland.
Many of the pirates are formerly struggling fishermen fed up with the country’s situation — a fact that they did not hide from their captives. The BBC reports:
They frequently took the trouble to tell us that they hadn’t had a proper government for about 17 years, that there were no government agencies and, as a result, they were obliged to rob to survive,” says Captain Darch [of a captured Danish vessel].
Worse, though, these are not merely a few isolated fisherfolk looking to make a buck (or a euro) by, shall we say, expanding their business. Forces on land with the potential to further destabilize Somalia’s conflict have noticed that this piracy could provide them with a reliable source of funding.
“Businessmen and former fighters for the Somali warlords moved in when they saw how lucrative it could be. The pirates and their backers tend to split the ransom money 50-50,” [BBC reporter Mohamed Olad Hassan] says.
The UN is addressing both of these problems, fortunately. The Security Council is drafting a resolution to allow countries to pursue pirates into Somalian waters, and Spain — one of whose ships was recently captured — has pushed for creating a UN anti-piracy force. To deal with the persistent violence on land, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Somali, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has pledged that the UN will continue to work to bring the various warring factions together for peace talks.