Friday, October 15, 2010

Can Puntland Be Effective Against Piracy?

The folks over at Piracy Studies seem to think so. It's no secret that some of Puntland's governing officials are in the piracy business themselves -- and where there is money in an unstable situation political influence isn't far behind -- but anti-Piracy measures in the semi-autonomous region seem to be at least making the pirates squirm.

Puntland security forces have cracked down pirate hideouts. A substantial number of pirates have already been arrested and tried. An estimated number of 250 pirates are currently jailed in Bossaso, more than in any other country[9]. Moreover the government has sponsored a public awareness campaign to discredit piracy and discourage people from joining piracy gangs. For the campaign the authorities have collaborated with members of the Diaspora, religious representatives, clan leaders and community activists. It is also negotiating with pirates to give up their business.[10] For some these measures are however no more than lip service, have been inefficient and serve to shadow the role of Puntland officials in the piracy business.

The true role of the government of Puntland is probably somewhere in between these positions. While some officials might have benefited from piracy, it is also clear that the government has expressed willingness to encounter piracy and indeed already taken measures. The fact that the epicenter of piracy seems to shift to south-central Somalia, outside Puntland’s territory might be seen as supporting the view that piracy organizations face increasing operational difficulties in Puntland.

I'm surprised the status quo is changing at all, and kudos to Puntland for making any progress on this at all. I suppose I just think it is too much to ask for everyone involved to abandon short-term economic gain for a moral courage that will not pay off for a long time. Without the promise of international recognition, trade and investment in the country, asking that these people quit supporting piracy wholesale has always looked to me to be a fool's errand. I'm not being picky, though - these days, we should take our good news, however limited, where we find it.

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