By Urmila Venugopalan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia manager at Oceans Beyond Piracy, a U.S.-based non-profit. You can follow her on Twitter @Urmila_V. The views expressed are her own.
Difficult economic conditions have pushed many a business leader into early retirement. But Mohamed Abdi Hassan – the Somali pirate kingpin nicknamed “Afweyne” or “Big Mouth” – surely never expected to be among them. The notorious crime boss made a splash at the beginning of this year when he announced his decision to “quit” piracy after eight lucrative years in the business. Coinciding with news reports that pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean have plunged to a five-year low, Hassan’s “retirement” raises an unexpected question: is Somali piracy over?
Certainly, the statistics paint an optimistic picture of fewer attacks and fewer successful hijackings. The International Maritime Bureau’s 2012 annual report noted that the number of recorded pirate attacks fell dramatically, from 237 in 2011 to just 75 last year. Attempted attacks also dropped sharply, from 189 in 2011 to 59 in 2012, although this figure is likely complicated by increased in the underreporting of such incidents. Pirates were also less successful at hijacking commercial vessels, capturing only 14 last year, down 50 percent from 2011. These statistics have encouraged some to claim that the Somali piracy bubble has burst.
But is it too soon to write off this business?
By Urmila Venugopalan, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Urmila Venugopalan is the South Asia manager at Oceans Beyond Piracy. You can follow her on Twitter @Urmila_V and @OBPiracySAsia. The views expressed are her own.
Maritime piracy has long been considered the scourge of commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean. Recently, however, a combination of government- and private sector-led action has seen the number of pirate attacks in the region plunge to their lowest levels in almost five years.
This year’s statistics are unusually encouraging: the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported in July that Somali piracy activity fell by almost 60 percent, down from 163 incidents in the first half of 2011 to just 69 in the same period of this year. Somali pirates also hijacked only 13 ships, down from 21, according to the IMB.
Robust cooperation among international navies has certainly played a key role in driving this trend. Regular naval patrols – led by NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, the EU’s Operation Atlanta, and Combined Task Force 151 – have undoubtedly disrupted several pirate attacks. China, India and Japan have also independently contributed to this effort – in a significant move at the start of this year, the three countries agreed to set aside their rivalries and coordinate their escort convoys in the Gulf of Aden.
Editor's Note: Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Richard Downie is a fellow and deputy director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The views expressed in this piece are solely those of Richard Downie.
Kenya is in the third week of a major military offensive inside neighboring Somalia. Called “Operation Protect the Nation,” it is Kenya’s largest military operation since independence in 1963. Around 1,600 troops are sweeping through areas of Southern Somalia controlled by the extremist Islamist group, al Shabaab. The Kenyan air force has also been in action, launching bombing raids on insurgent bases. Kenya’s military spokesman has even used his twitter account to warn residents living near al Shabaab camps in 10 towns to take shelter against imminent attacks.
Q: Why did Kenya invade?
Richard Downie: Kenyans have gotten increasingly alarmed about Somalia’s chronic instability, which has spilled over its borders. One manifestation of this instability is Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya, which receives Somalis fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their own country. Numbers at this camp have swelled to almost 450,000 because of the famine conditions in parts of Southern Somalia.
Editor’s Note: Avi Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury official, is president of the Red Cell Intelligence Group and the author of Tainted Money: Are We Losing the War on Money Laundering and Terrorism Finance?
By Avi Jorisch - Special to CNN
In recent weeks, the United Nations has sponsored meetings in Mogadishu to help Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) improve security, promote reconciliation and draw up a new constitution for the war-ravaged country. One of the biggest obstacles to ensuring peace in Somalia, however, is Al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization, which controls large swaths of the country and siphons off aid meant to help the country’s destitute. While the international community focuses its attention on the best ways to help Somalia, much more can be done to curtail Al-Shabaab’s influence.
Founded in 2004, Al-Shabaab has been designated a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The group is a recognized al Qaeda affiliate that is determined to institute its own brand of Salafi Islamic rule in Somalia. Two years ago, the group consolidated control over the southern and central part of the country, and, until recently, it also controlled most of the capital. Governments around the globe now fear that Somalia is becoming another al Qaeda safe haven that will require international intervention. FULL POST
By Tristan McConnell, GlobalPost
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Behind a fortified compound encircled with sandbags near Mogadishu’s airport is a large fenced enclosure that was the unlikely home to a pair of lion cubs rescued from smugglers earlier this year.
The two cubs were discovered aboard a ship at Mogadishu port. They were taken in and cared for by foreign contractors in the war-torn city until last week, when they were finally flown out to an animal sanctuary in South Africa.
Grumpy and Scar, as they were nicknamed, (the former has a bad temper and is prone to nipping overfriendly visitors; the latter has a blemish on her forehead) were found and confiscated by port authorities in late February.
Officials believe they were to be shipped to the home of a wealthy exotic-pet owner in the Arabian Gulf, and their discovery sheds light on the hidden plunder of Somalia’s wildlife and natural resources from the country’s anarchic hinterland. FULL POST
A record 4 million people in Somalia need humanitarian aid and 750,000 people are in danger of "imminent starvation," the United Nations said on Monday.
Famine in the African nation has spread to the Bay region, which is now the sixth area in Somalia suffering from an acute shortage of food, according to the the U.N.'s Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network.
Officials are calling for a surge in response efforts as the crisis is predicted to get worse. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Ken Menkhaus is Professor of Political Science at Davidson College.
The ongoing famine in Somalia has placed millions of Somalis at risk. On August 5, the U.S. government estimated that the famine had taken the lives of more than 29,000 children under the age of five. A total of 3.7 million Somalis - almost half the country's population - are in need of emergency relief, and more than 750,000 are now in refugee camps in neighboring countries.
For several weeks, it appeared that the international community would be unable to aid those suffering from starvation. But developments over the past two weeks offer at least modest hope that key obstacles to food aid delivery may be overcome. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Andrew Blejwas is the Humanitarian Media Manager at Oxfam America.
By Andrew Blejwas, Special to CNN
There is nowhere to begin a conversation about aid delivery and famine in Somalia that doesn’t wind up in a labyrinth of blame and risk. But at the end of the maze, ultimately, are people like Mohamed Dahir, a local Somali aid worker helping to deliver aid to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) throughout Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle. FULL POST
By Alex Perry, TIME
The difference between a drought and a famine is down to man. Texas is in the middle of its worst drought on record right now but cowboys aren't starving – because Texas, and the US, have government and economy enough to ensure they don't. Somalia doesn't have any government worthy of the name and that's one reason why persistent drought has pushed around 3 million Somalis in the south of the country close to starvation.
The difference between ungoverned Somalia and its better-governed neighbors, Ethiopia and Kenya, is starkly visible on a map: on one side of the border, famine; on the other hunger, and a refugee crisis, but no mass starvation. As Nancy Lindborg, co-ordinating the U.S. response to the famine, says: "If you ever needed a strong case for the need for democratic inclusive government..."
But Somalia's famine is also about the lack of something else: a decent aid operation. There are three reasons the emergency effort to save starving Somalis is falling tragically short. FULL POST
Editor's note: Jens David Ohlin is associate professor of law at Cornell Law School and the co-author (with George Fletcher) of "Defending Humanity: When Force is Justified and Why" (Oxford University Press, 2008).
Somalia is known to most Americans as the setting for the book and film "Black Hawk Down" and as the world center for modern-day pirates. It is the poster child for failed humanitarian interventions and for good intentions gone wrong.
But none of that should blind Americans to the horrific humanitarian crisis developing in Somalia, a growing famine that threatens to kill hundreds of thousands of people if they do not receive help from the international community.
Of course, many of the problems that doomed the U.S. intervention in 1992, and led to "Black Hawk Down," remain. Despite years of diplomatic efforts, Somalia persists in a state of near anarchy. The central government controls only a fraction of the country, and warlords with private militia still battle each other for control of territory and trade. Now, an Islamic insurgency has further eroded security in the region, and organized groups of pirates use Somalia's anarchy as a launching point for raids against merchant vessels. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
By Jayshree Bajoria, CFR.org
The famine declared in five areas in southern Somalia is expected to spread across all regions of the south in the coming four to six weeks, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The UN estimates twenty-nine thousand children under the age of five have died in southern Somalia and 3.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance across the country.
Rashid Abdi, a Nairobi-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, calls the crisis in Somalia "a collective failure of the international community," which failed to act on early warnings of a crisis, or to invest in sustainable agriculture to make local communities self-sufficient. Additionally, al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group which controls most of southern Somalia, had banned several international aid groups from the region in 2009.
Though they lifted the ban last month (al-Jazeera), restrictions remain. The priority now, Abdi says, is to reach people trapped inside al-Shabaab-controlled territory, and "if that means negotiating with al-Shabaab, so be it."