Somalia – Piracy Revival

After a decline in activities, there has been a resurgence of piracy in the Gulf of Aden. 

After an extended period of inactivity, pirates operating from the Somali coast have recently taken a number of ships; on March 13th a small oil tanker was hijacked and on March 24th pirates attacked a fishing boat, the first such attacks since 2012.

“We understand that pirates hijacked the fishing vessel to hijack a big ship off the ocean…they dropped its 10 Yemeni crew and a Somali guard inland and disappeared with the boat together with the food, cook, captain and engineer,” Head of Maritime Police Forces in Puntland, Abdirahman Mohamud said.

The pirates were reportedly from the village of Marrayo. Their tactic was reportedly to use the smaller ship as a mothership or launchpad for other more large scale attacks.

Further, on April 3rd Somali pirates seized a small boat and its 11 Indian crew members, and taken the vessel along the central coast, a state official said. The boat is currently in an area which was the centre of piracy in 2011, the coast near Elhur.

The attack happened as the vessel passed through the channel between Yemen’s Socotra Island and the Somali coast, reported the Independent


NATO troops on suspected Somali pirate ship – CC 2012

On piracy expert said, “we’re starting to see copycat attacks and there is a growing realisation that the shipping industry is taking huge risks.” British maritime safety firm Dryad Maritime has warned clients to stay 100 nautical miles away from the Socotra gap due to piracy concerns.

In 2011, Somalia pirates launched 237 attacks off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, and held many hundreds of hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

However, the frequency of attacks eventually fell as shipping firms increased security, such as blocking easy entrance points, installing secure panic rooms with communication equipment, and hiring private and military security escorts, reported the Independent.

Piracy in the region was once a serious concern for the global shipping industry. However since the decline, attention has turned to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Recent events, however, suggest that the situation in the Gulf of Aden is deteriorating.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

AFRICAN UNION: Maritime Security Deal
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21170A–21170C

Mauritius – Somalia: Piracy Sentences
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 8, Pp. 21097A

GULF OF GUINEA: Step Forward in Tackling Piracy
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 52, Issue. 3, Pp. 20512A–20512B

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Somalia – Famine Looms

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Unless the international community acts soon the consequences of famine to the already troubled country could be devastating. 

The United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF have issued a warning that only immediate and large-scale humanitarian efforts can avert another serious catastrophe in the country.

The northern regions have been facing water shortages for over a year, spreading now across the southern parts of the country, hitting a population half of which – in the region of 6.2 million – are food insecure. The number of severely malnourished children is expected to increase by 50 percent.

“Huge numbers of Somalis have come to the end of all their possible resources and are living hand-to-mouth,” said Steven Lauwerier, the UNICEF Somalia Representative. “We have a small window of opportunity to avert this looming catastrophe and save children’s lives and we are determined to work with all partners and stakeholders to succeed,” reported Shabelle Media Network.

The situation has also caused a spike in waterborne diseases such as Acute Watery Diahorrea and Cholera. Many regions facing the threat of famine still have worryingly low levels of humanitarian provision and networks for support.

A number of countries including the UK and Norway have issued statements of support. The UK has said it will issues £100 million to Somalia and also South Sudan, where famine has been declared, reported Shabelle.

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People queuing at the Dolo Ado camp for aid in 2011 – CC

The famine has been exacerbated by consecutive droughts over the last two years and a particularly strong El Nino event which decimated crops and livestock. According to observers the situation is similar to the famine that hit Somalia six years ago, during which 260,000 people died and the international response was too slow.

Prices for water and livestock have rocketed. Before the famine a barrel of water cost in the region of US£2, although now it is in the region of $10, reported the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Near Diinsoor town, in Baay region, reports suggested that already as many as 30 people had died as a result of the famine and drought, reported Shabelle. It is difficult to gauge the speed at which the famine will hit, but it is looming large of much of eastern Africa.

In early February Somalia saw the election of a new President Mohammed Abdullahi Mohamed, and was also declared as one of the seven countries affected by US President Donald Trump‘s travel ban.

The new President faces serious challenges both politically, economically and socially, all of which are currently subsumed beneath the threat of famine. Immediate action is crucial – in 2011 more than 70 famine warnings were issued and by the time aid was dispatched it was already too late.

The last famine was confined to areas under militant group Al Shabaab‘s control in the south of the country, but this time areas in the north are also at risk. This presents a major test not only for the new president but also for the authorities in the self-declared republic of Somaliland and the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, reported Chatham House.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Drought Deepens and Spreads [Free to Access]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series,
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21495C–21496A

Hunger and Drought
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21455A–21455C

SOMALIA: Five Million Go Hungry
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 9, Pp. 21420A–21420B

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Somalia – Truce Collapses

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Communal violence erupts again in the Puntland border areas, as elsewhere in the country Al-Shabaab makes gains.

Reports suggested that at least 20 people died as violence gripped the border regions of the semi autonomous areas of Puntland and Galmudug on November 5th, with around 80 more left injured.

The town of Galkoyo, the provincial capital of the divided Mudug region, was the epicentre of the tensions. The north of the town is administered by Puntland, while the south by Galmudug.

Six civilians are among the dead and also journalist Mahad Ali Mohammed. According to the Union of Somali Journalists he was working for the Galmudug Radio Station and was hit by a stray bullet.

A military officer from Puntland, Mohamed Aden, said that “Galmudug does not want peace…We shall continue fighting till we cleanse Galmudug forces,” reported Deutschewelle. The United Nations (UN) says that about 80,000 people have already fled the town.

The UN envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating, said that Al-Shabaab was making gains in the town due to the ongoing conflict and called for a return to dialogue, and particularly for the deaths of civilians to stop, reported Shabelle Media Network.

Under terms of a ceasefire deal mediated by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that came into force only a few days previously, forces of both regions were supposed to be withdrawn from the disputed area, reported Al Jazeera.

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Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas alongside Jubbaland President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe – CC 

According to a report by Shabelle Media Network, naval forces from the Puntland administration raided so-called Islamic State (Daesh) locations in the coastal town of Qandala in the Bari region – however there was no official statement on the operation.

Meanwhile, as Ethiopian troops have been withdrawn from the country, reports suggest that Al-Shabaab militants have taken it as an opportunity to make gains. The insurgent group have taken nine towns along the Ethiopian border and have threatened to disrupt presidential elections scheduled for November 30th.

Spokesperson for the African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia (AMISON) Colonel Joseph Kibet, told The EastAfrican that the Ethiopian withdrawal is leaving a vacuum that is encouraging the re-emergence of Al Shabaab.

Ethiopian Information and Communication Minister, Getachew Reda, said the troop withdrawal is due to financial constraints and the failure of the international community to train and give support to the Somalia National Army (SNA), reported the East African.

Somalia has faced widespread conflict since the death of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in the 1990s, and in recent years the presence if the Al-Shabaab has grown considerably.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Electoral Process Begins
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21179A–21179C

ETHIOPIA – SOMALIA: Troop Pull-Out
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21170C–21171A

SOMALIA: Deadly Standoff Between Rival States
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 10, Pp. 21191B–21192B

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Somalia – Upcoming Elections

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The government moves towards party politics in a bid to put an end to clan factionalism. 

According to a recent forum of regional and national leaders, members of Somalia’s new parliament must join a political party within two years or step down, as the country seeks to move away from clan-based politics, which has largely fuelled more than two decades of conflict in the country.

Elections for a new President will be held in October 2016 when 275 members of the lower house of parliament will also be chosen by around 14,000 people, in turn will be chosen by elders from major clans. While only a small part of the total 11 million people in the country, in 2012 the parliament was chosen by just 135 elders.

“The leaders of the National Leadership Forum agreed to promote the establishment and registration of political parties within two years, starting from the date when the 10th parliament is elected,” the forum said after a week-long meeting.

Many diplomats have been pushing for the elections are recurrent delays; the term of the existing parliament ends on August 20th while the President’s term expires on September 9th, reported Reuters.

The country continues to face widespread security risks from the Al-Shabaab group; between August 10-13th Somali commandos and US Special Forces killed 30 Al-Shabaab militants in the Middle Juba region near to the Kenyan border. Among those killed were senior commanders including Abu Ubeida the Al-Shabaab leader in Southern Somalia, reported Shabelle Media Network.

Somalia was plunged into civil war in the early 1990s following the toppling of dictator Siad Barre and has not held elections for several decades.

Current President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is standing for re-election alongside an as-yet-undetermined number of opponents, including Fadumo Dayib, a Finnish citizen who is aiming to become the first female leader in the country, reported Newsweek.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon emphasised, “the importance of Somalia’s 2016 electoral process being conducted in a transparent, credible and inclusive manner, and in a climate of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” reported the UN News Centre.

At the same time, amidst peace talks between the Somaliland, Puntland and a self declared Khaatumo administration in the Northern Sool region, an amnesty has been agreed for Somaliland politicians in the capital Mogadishu, reported Garowe Online. Politicians had previously been unable to travel from the autonomous regions to the capital.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

SOMALIA: Electoral Commission
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21069A–21069B

SOMALIA: Suicide Bombers Target AMISOM HQ
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.7, Pp.21083A–21085A

SOMALIA: Elections Planned
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol.53, Issue.6, Pp.21032B–21033A

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Africa – Piracy

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Frequency of attacks drops in East Africa but kidnappings rise in the Gulf of Guinea – AU says seaport security crucial.

On July 26th the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), part of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said that piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia has fallen to its lowest levels since 1995, with only one incident in the last six months.

However, the IMB stated that it “believes that a single successful hijacking of a merchant vessel, will rekindle the Somali pirates’ passion to resume its piracy efforts.” The organisation added that Somali pirates continue to hold 29 crew members for ransom as of June 30th, reported Somali news service Shabelle.

A Netherlands-based firm, Atlantic Marine and Offshore Group, which was contracted to build six ships for the Somali Coast Guard in July 2013, is close to delivering the vessels and will also train the navy tasked with operating the ships, which is expected to take 5-6 more years. The vessels will be used to combat piracy, illegal fishing, waste dumping, and weapons deliveries to the al-Shabaab group.

Somali ambassador to the European Union (EU), Dr Ali Sa’id Faqi, said the creation of a coastguard represented a historic leap for Somalia and the government had signed an agreement with Netherlands-based Atlantic Marine and Offshore Group to train Somali coastguard personnel, reported Dalsan Radio.

IMB’s global piracy report recorded 98 incidents in the first half of 2016, compared with 134 for the same period in 2015. In 2010 and 2003, the IMB recorded around 445 attacks a year. The IMB has a live piracy incident feed, available here.

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NATO Counter-Piracy Troops, Somalia CC – 2012.

Despite a drop in East Africa the IMB report noted there had been a surge of kidnappings off West Africa, with 44 crew members kidnapped in 2016. China on July 28th announced plans to support infrastructural development in the Gulf of Guinea to help in the fight against piracy.

On July 25th the African Union’s (AU) African Day of the Seas and Oceans focused on the theme, ‘Maritime Governance for Sustainable Development’. Seaports are crucial to African economies but are easily accessible to criminals, pirates and drug smugglers.

According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) the low standard of living for populations living near to the ports can fuel port insecurity. Reports show that African ports often fail to meet the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) code.

According to ISS the government in many countries seems to lack commitment to protect coasts and did not have maritime strategies in place, or if they did, they were not implemented satisfactorily.

In the Gulf of Guinea, the ISS reported that only two out of the planned maritime coordination centres are operational and while there had been some successes in Operation Prosperity by Benin and Nigeria, inter-state joint patrols are still at an experimental stage. (BBC News 13-17/7; Dalsan Radio 17/7; ISS 26/7; Shabelle 26/7; Xinhua 29/7)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

Piracy
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue.3, Pp.21217A

Piracy – Drop in Recorded Cases
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, Issue. 2, Pp.21180C

Somalia – Piracy [Free to Access]
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue. 11, Pp.21076B

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Somalia: Time to Invest?

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Somalia is planning its second Somalia Investment Summit (SIS), scheduled to take place on April 6th-7th in Dubai, according to the Somalia Economic Forum, which is organising the event.

Mogadishu, Somalia (Picture credit: TedX Photos)

Mogadishu, Somalia (Picture credit: TedX Photos)

The summit aims to bring together more than 250 investors, industry partners, multinational companies and policymakers to promote business activity and investment in Somalia, and forge strategic partnerships that benefit the Somali economy.

It is expected to address ways to transform financial growth into sustained prosperity, including in the energy, telecommunications, finance and agricultural sectors.

The first Somali Reconstruction and Investment Conference and Exhibition was held in Nairobi, Kenya in May 2013 and focused on exploring investment opportunities in the Horn of Africa country.

Somalia could look doubtful as an investment destination. However, the economy has maintained reasonable levels of output throughout the country’s two-decade-long civil war. It has maintained an informal economy largely based on the export of livestock – mainly camels – and remittances of money from one of the world’s largest diasporas, estimated at over 5m living in North America, Europe and the Middle East. This group sends home billions of dollars annually. Despite continuing violence investors have come to Somalia looking to cash in on the rebuilding process and abundant natural resources.

Somalia is about the same size as France, and is endowed with uranium, iron ore, tin, gypsum, bauxite, copper, salt, natural gas and oil. It also exports fish, hides, charcoal and bananas. With the longest coastline on the African continent (3,025km), this could be a major hub between Africa and the Middle East. Gulf Arab states have started to make strategic investments in the country, with Saudi Arabia building livestock export infrastructure and the United Arab Emirates purchasing large tracts of farmland for commercial agriculture. The country is slowly overtaking the Gulf States dependence on its major source of livestock market – Australia.

The country of some 10m people badly needs investment in energy, manufacturing, finance, telecoms, infrastructure and agribusiness.

Innovative fields such as mobile technology have been taking off, although they still only impact a minority of the population (22.5 out of every 100 inhabitants have a mobile phone subscription in Somalia, significantly lower than the developing world average of 84.3).

Somalia has huge oil and gas potential, but “the current uncertainty surrounding federal and regional states and the lack of agreement over resource sharing and taxation means that it will be very difficult for that sector to take off until those issues are resolved,” notes Nick Haslam of advisory firm Adam Smith International. The second pillar of the President’s Six Pillar Strategy to stabilise the country is economic recovery. In line with this, Somalia aims to build a transparent, formalized, globally competitive economy that collects tax revenues. But, with political recovery and transition slowly underway, the country’s economy faces many challenges.

One is certification. The government does not have the capacity to participate in certification schemes or to provide authenticity documentation that would enable businesses to sell goods globally. Firms instead have to find unconventional, and often costly, workarounds.

Transport links are problematic; there are no direct flights between Mogadishu and Ethiopia, for example, although there are to Djibouti, Kampala and Nairobi. As a result, businesses have to go to great lengths to trade with other countries – businesses register in Dubai in order to get access to finance and so forth.

This also means that businesses are less transparent. “Who is behind certain business sectors? It’s like an onion. Every time you peel some layer, you discover other friends behind it without necessarily being very officially present,” according to Luca Alinovi, regional director of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In 2012, Somalia exported goods worth US$693m, according to data from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade. While this represents a significant increase – in 2008, exports were less than half that number – the country still runs a large trade deficit. In 2012, its imports were valued at $1,818bn. It also exports less than other countries: Somalia is the 171st largest exporter in the world, and it has the fourth lowest GDP per capita, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Somalia is not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), compounding the difficulties local firms face when competing regionally and internationally. It is not a member of any regional economic blocs, and it has few formal trade deals with other nations. Regional partners often impose strict restrictions on Somalia, mainly out of security fears. The US and the European Union (EU) currently have no trade agreements with Somalia. Its biggest export market is to the UAE, which takes in more than half its total exports. Just three countries (UAE, Yemen and Oman) account for 82.5% of all exports, predominantly in livestock, out of Somalia.

Restoring the credibility of the currency, the Shilling, will also be crucial to economic development. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has highlighted currency reform as a major priority, and the Central Bank has identified “the introduction of new and unified currency” for Somalia as one of its strategic goals for the next five years.

“There were (and still are) several versions of the same currency (Shilling) in circulation concurrently, and most of them are fake currencies,” the bank noted in its Strategic Plan 2013-2018.

There is a large black market for currency. Officially, Somalia’s shilling trades at around 1,200 to the US dollar, but it is about 15 times that rate on the black market.

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Islamic banking continues rapid growth

Already a rapidly expanding sector in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, Islamic banking now looks set to develop elsewhere, too, as the governments of Ghana, Uganda, Ivory Coast, and Somalia begin making strident efforts to introduce the system.

The practice has been identified as having huge growth potential in Africa, where Muslims constitute 51 percent of the population.  More than 250 Islamic financial institutions, including Islamic banks, Takaful companies, Islamic Funds, Modarabas, and Islamic Microfinance, are already operating in Africa, according to research by MicroFinance Africa.

A recent article by the Nigerian Daily Trust newspaper suggests that the growth of Islamic banking may owe partly to the failure of the Western banking system that precipitated a worldwide financial crisis that is yet to end.

“Non-Interest (Islamic) banking may be seen as a recent financial system improvised as alternative to tackle the turmoil inherent in conventional banking system. However, there were earliest references which suggest that Islamic banking came into the picture first in Egypt in 1963. This pioneering effort was achieved by Ahmad El Najjar who brought the idea into existence, whose key principle was profit sharing (non-interest based philosophy of Shariah). By the end of 1976 there were 9 such banks in Egypt alone. These banks neither charged nor paid interest but their activities were mostly limited to trade and industries where these banks invested directly or as partners of depositors.”

Indeed, the reasons appear both numerous and complex, but the rise of Islamic banking is a trend to keep an eye on.