Somalia's Rich Maritime Resources Being Plundered, Report Says
By Thalif Deen
Three years of deployment of naval fleets by some of the major powers has
failed to stamp out the modestly-equipped, ransom-seeking pirates. / Surface
Warrior/CC By 2.0
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23, 2012 (IPS) - The international community has failed
to grapple with the real underlying political and economic issues facing the
troubled East African nation of Somalia, which has been surviving without an
effective government for over two decades, according to a new study released
With the country's 3,300-km coastline virtually unprotected, industrial
fishing vessels from Europe and Asia have entered the area in large numbers
and are plundering Somalia's rich maritime resources.
"Having over-fished their home waters, these sophisticated factory ships are
seeking catch in one of the world's richest remaining fishing zones," says
the report published by the New York-based Global Policy Forum (GPF).
"The foreign boats are illegal, unreported and unregulated - part of a
growing international criminal fishing enterprise," it says.
Authored by Suzanne Dershowitz and James Paul, the report was released ahead
of a high-level international conference on Somalia scheduled to take place
in London Feb. 23.
Despite the efforts of the African Union (AU), the United Nations and the
international community, international policy towards Somalia is not
succeeding, admits the British government, which is convening the London
meeting, to be hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron.
"After 20 years of sliding backwards, Somalia needs a step-change in effort
both from the international community, but also Somalia's political
leaders," the report adds.
The organisers are expecting around 40 governments to attend the London
conference, along with representatives of the United Nations, the AU, the
European Union (EU), World Bank, the Inter-Governmental Authority for
Development, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, and the League of Arab
Britain has also invited representatives of Somalia's Transitional Federal
Institutions, as well as the presidents of Somaliland, Puntland, Galmudug
and Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaah (ASWJ).
The GPF reports says: "The battles off the coast of Somalia are closely
connected to the onshore crisis in the country, where again we find heavy
foreign use of military force."
During the Cold War, the primary importance of Somalia was its geostrategic
location. Today, there are new interests, including mineral reserves of iron
ore, tin, uranium, copper and other metals.
"Most importantly, there are likely deposits of natural gas and an estimated
5-10 billion barrels of crude petroleum reserves - worth as much as 500
million dollars at today's prices," the report says.
U.S., Australian, Canadian and Chinese and other companies are already at
work to tap these rich resources.
Somalia remains the prototypical "failed state" - a government that does not
rule over its national territory. The Cold War drew the country into
regional rivalries and conflict, including the brutal Ogaden War with
The Somali army grew to be one of Africa's largest and a military
dictatorship ruled. Eventually, the unpopular and bankrupt state collapsed.
There followed a series of failed foreign military interventions to restore
A U.N. peacekeeping force (UNISOM I - 1992) was soon followed by a U.S.
military force (UNITAF - 1992-93), and then another U.N. peacekeeping
mission (UNOSOM II - 1993-95).
Still, after three years of deployment of naval fleets by some of the major
powers, and in spite of their massive electronic gear and aerial
surveillance systems, they have not stamped out the modestly- equipped,
ransom-seeking pirates. In fact, pirate attacks apparently have increased
substantially since 2008, the GPF report says.
Predictably, the navies have done nothing whatsoever about the other
"pirates" - the illegal fishing operators and the toxic dumpers.
James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum and co- author of
the new report on Somalia, remains sceptical of the upcoming London
He told IPS the conference claims to represent an improved international
response to the crisis in Somalia, but in fact it is just escalation of the
same old strategy of violence.
"Far from addressing root causes and using a holistic approach as the UK
government has announced, the conference seeks mainly to rally public
opinion around more violence, more intervention, and more counterterrorism
options that have failed for the past 20 years and are failing today," he
"We should remember that the conference will be giving its implicit blessing
to the recent invasions from Ethiopia and Kenya, that it will be tacitly
approving the drone strikes and secret military operations bein gcarried out
by the UK, the U.S., France and perhaps others," he added.
It will also turn its eyes away from the secret prisons, targeted
assassinations, shadowy military contractors, and extremely violent
behaviour of the African Union forces, which act under the authorisation of
the U.N. Security Council, he said.
Some human rights and humanitarian NGOs have been promoting this kind of
narrow approach, but the most constructive stance is to reject the
violence-centered military policies, as the U.N.'s Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs did in "an important and courageous
statement" in December of last year, he added.
Paul said the violence-prone naval approach has not worked, because it
ignores the illegal foreign fishing and toxic waste dumping that is taking
place off the Somali coast.
The fishing and dumping provokes the piracy and has led ordinary Somalis to
approve the piracy as a legitimate form of national defence.
But powerful members of the Security Council, notably the U.S. and the UK,
have blocked any action on fishing and dumping.
"They pretend that there is no information about the matter, even while
their naval fleets are closely monitoring the movement of all ships in
Somali waters," Paul said. "So much for root causes and holistic approaches.
Violence is virtually the only option allowed onto the table in London."
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Received on Thu Feb 23 2012 - 18:30:54 EST