Somalia: the world’s most utterly failed state

Piracy is becoming big business in Somalia. This year alone, nearly 60 attacks have been reported, and Somali pirates look set to go on hitting vessels heading into or out of the Red Sea or passing through the Gulf of Aden: about 10 per cent of the world's shipping. With the desolation and length of Somalia's coastline, foreign navies have little chance of stamping out piracy without much larger and better co-ordinated forces, says the Economist.

Moreover, the pirates are becoming increasingly sophisticated and handsomely bankrolled by Somalis in Dubai and elsewhere, says the Economist:

  • They are not yet directly tied up with the Islamist insurgents in Somalia, though they may yet have to pay cash to whoever controls their coastal havens in return for uninterrupted business, thus assisting the purchase of weapons and fuelling the violence.

  • The average ransom has tripled since 2007, as has the number of ships taken.

  • Some $100 million may have been paid to pirates this year; by comparison, the United Nations Development Programme's annual budget for Somalia is $14 million.

  • Moreover, piracy complicates the delivery of food aid to the 3.2 million Somalis that survive on it.

    But piracy is just one symptom of the power vacuum inside Somalia, says the Economist. The country's "transitional federal government" is powerless to stop its citizens from participating in piracy, just as it cannot halt the resurgent jihadists who have taken control of much of southern Somalia. About 9,000 civilians have been killed in the insurgency in the past year.

    A plan has been developed to withdraw the 7,000 Ethiopian troops now in Somalia and replace them with a 2,200-strong African Union force of Ugandan and Burundian troops with 8,000 UN peacekeepers. But it is unlikely that the plan will be implemented, says the Economist. If the UN couldn't produce half its promised force for Darfur, Somalia stands little chance of getting any help.

    Source: Editorial, The world's most utterly failed state, The Economist, October 2, 2008.

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    For more on International Issues:

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 28 October 2008
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