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The Somali crisis and the
EU: Moving onshore and
committing to Somalia
GGI Analysis Paper 5/ 2012
The Global Governance Institute
July 2012 1050 Brussels, Belgium
About 90 percent of world trade is conducted via sea transport and up to 50 percent of the
world’s container ships pass by the Horn of Africa (Stone 2012). In result, Somali piracy attacks costs the global economy some USD 7 billion a year (One Earth Future Foundation 2012). The crisis in Somalia has thus become a global problem. In response, the worlds’ powers are trying to contain and defuse it. The United States, China, Russia, NATO and the European Union all patrol the Indian Ocean in one of the largest military operations currently ongoing. Thousands of navy officers on war ships are engaged off the Somali coast aiming to protect container and cargo ships. With this costly undertaking not having much effect on preventing piracy, new strategies are needed.
The Global Governance Institute takes a look at the political dynamics in Somalia and recommends to closer integrating shore and offshore-based engagement. It focuses on the European engagement with two running crisis management operations and one launched on 16 July 2012 and to be operational in the autumn. In the medium- to long-term engagement on the ground is needed. Piracy is a symptom of political instability in Somalia, not its cause.
The revenue generated by pirates via ransom was about USD 160m in 2011, a fraction of what the international naval operations cost. The new European EUCAP Nestor operation can be a first step in the right direction if it is the first of many steps to much stronger engagement, fostering dialogue and addressing the causes of conflict: poverty and instability within Somalia rather than merely deploying warships to patrol the Somali coast.
Table of Contents Introduction
1. State of the conflict and international maritime engagement
1.1 The maritime anti-piracy mission – expensive and inefficient
1.2 Local context of the Somali piracy
2. EU Approach in the Horn of Africa
2.1 Assessing the EU’s new capacity building mission for the Horn of Africa
About the Authors
About the Global Governance Institute
Introduction The Horn of Africa is home to the biggest ongoing international military engagement outside of Afghanistan. The US, China, Russia, NATO and the EU maintain naval anti-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia while primarily the African Union (AU), Kenya and Ethiopia conduct operations on land. The number of international and regional actors raises many challenges, particularly the quest for an integrated strategy and of co-ordination across actors. External engagement is still driven by a simplified counterterrorism and anti-piracy agenda, which does not yield tangible results. Maritime piracy in the Horn of Africa is by far the most visible problem in the region, albeit not one of the most pressing for the Somalis themselves. While the focus of the international engagement is still on re-active measures and containment on the sea, a lasting solution to the problem of piracy needs to consider wider measures on shore as part of a wider-reaching, comprehensive approach.
The EU proclaims such a comprehensive approach as its new leitmotif for foreign and security policy since the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty and exercises it for Somalia. But the International Community is still very cautious of putting its personnel on Somali soil, despite the country being near the top of the international agenda once again. Only the UN maintains a small Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) with about 60 personnel. But despite considerable aid efforts no European Union member state or the European External Action Service maintains a diplomatic representation in the country. The EU’s activities include the launch of a Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) on 8 December 2008 to protect shipping and international trade. On 27 September 2011 the European Union deployed a training mission for Somali soldiers in addition. In November 2011 a strategic framework for the Horn of Africa was agreed by the European member states (Council of the European Union 2011). A third European operation, EUCAP Nestor was launched on 16 July 2012 to enhance the maritime capacities of Somalia, Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania and the Seychelles (EU 2012a).
Our colleague at the Global Governance Institute, Tim René Salomon has recently addressed the widening of the mandate of the EU Naval Force from a legal perspective (Salomon 2012).
This paper is adding to his perspective in providing an analysis of the situation in Somalia and evaluating the European engagement.
1. State of the conflict and international maritime engagement Somalia is largely considered the archetype of a failed state and overwhelmingly viewed by external actors through their counter-piracy and counter-terrorism agendas. South-central Somalia looks indeed like the perfect storm to policy makers: an Al-Qaeda affiliated militia is fighting a guerrilla war against Africa Union (AU), Kenyan, Ethiopian troops and against clan-based militias with loyalties to local commanders and warlords. The western-financed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is endemically corrupt, entirely delegitimized and unable to govern even the areas freed from Al-Shabaab militias by AMISOM troops in the capital Mogadishu. An example of this is mentioned in the latest report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, noting the issuance of a diplomatic passport with the authorization of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed to pirate leader Mohamed Abdi Hassan “Afweyne” (Reuters 2012; UN 2012:19-20; 204-206). On top of that, the 2011 famine cost 80.000 lives, with 3.2m people still in need of food assistance (FSNAU 2011). With no real breakthrough in the fighting, hundreds of thousand Somalis are internally displaced and spillover effects to neighbouring countries are on the rise.
The mandate of the Transitional Federal Government is running out in August 2012 with uncertainty about its future. On 23 February 2012, the United Kingdom held an international conference in London to come up with a new political framework for governing Somalia. This conference was complemented by another international conference in Istanbul on 31 May 2012, marking a shift in the British and Turkish policy agenda with Somalia becoming a priority foreign and security policy concern. The London conference seemed to be the first serious international effort to try to overcome challenges that have made Somalia a failed stated for the past 20 years and support the international mantra of establishing a central state in Somalia (International Crisis Group 2012). At the same time the conference rejected any possibility of involving Al-Shabaab in the political dialogue, although many Somalia analysts think the time for a political process with the armed opposition is ripe (Lacher 2011).
For many Somalis piracy is not a main challenge but a source of income Before the backdrop of these lingering internal problems, more than half of the Somali territory is actually controlled by comparably stable authorities, demonstrating the limits of the state failure debate (Höhne and Hagmann 2009). In fact, it is the more stable, permissive environments in the Northeast of the country from where most of the piracy groups operate.
Somalis themselves do not view piracy as their main challenge, as it has become a source of profit for those engaged and their families. This poses an additional challenge to international efforts to maintain and combat maritime piracy.
1.1 The maritime anti-piracy mission – expensive and inefficient The international anti-piracy engagement has so far focused on an offshore containment strategy with unsatisfactory outcome. A recent study by the One Earth Future Foundation (2012) estimates that the impact caused by Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean on the global economy to be USD 7 billion a year. International governments spend at least USD 1.3 billion a year to support international anti-piracy maritime missions. The shipping industry spends around USD 5.5 billion a year on maritime shipping in the Indian Ocean, of which USD 2.7 billion are additional costs incurred as a result of increasing the speed of navigation of lone container ships in an effort to reduce the risk of a successful piracy attack. Shippers spend around USD 1 billion on private security guards on ships, a figure that is rising rapidly as rates for a team of security guards are easily over USD 10,000 for a three-day trip. The costs for the Naval operations are not publicly available as they are distributed on a ‘cost lie where they fall’ basis, but according to a senior military representative, wishing to remain anonymous, the EU NAVFOR operation costs its member states close to EUR 1.5 billion a year1. The same official noted that piracy attacks had not been successful on ships that followed the guidelines on how to avoid piracy (ICS and ISF 2011).
Pirates have shown impressive adaption capabilities, adjusting their tactics, techniques and procedures to the presence of the international maritime missions in the Indian Ocean.
According to International Maritime Bureau statistics released in January 2012, pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean rose to 237 in 2011 from 219 in 2010. Yet, the number of successful attacks dropped from 49 in 2010 to 28 in 2011. This latter decrease in successful attacks can be attributed to pre-emptive attacks by international naval forces and defensive measures on the part of merchant vessels. However, the revenue generated by the pirates via ransom payments has continued to rise from approx. USD 100m in 2010 to a high of approx. USD 160m in 2011.
The real costs and the opportunity costs of navies engaged at the Horn of Africa, arguably missing for national defense at home, are difficult to estimate, as no official numbers exist. Such a cost could also need to incorporate the training benefits of a multinational exercise.
USD 2.7 billion were spent in 2011 by the shipping industry to reduce the risk of a successful piracy attack; but only USD 160m were paid to pirates for ransom Furthermore, pirates have gradually expanded their area of operation between 2008 and 2011 with the help of vessels known as “mother ships”. Pirates’ area of operation has expanded to the east towards the coast of India and to the south towards the coast of Mozambique and Madagascar, an area of approx. 2 million square miles. Currently around 40 ships make up the international anti-piracy flotilla. According to one US Navy analysis, an estimated 1.000 ships equipped with helicopters would be required to provide the same level of coverage in the Indian Ocean that is currently provided in the Gulf of Aden (US Government Accountability Office 2011). Increasing the area of coverage of the international anti-piracy maritime missions would come at significantly greater costs.
Though there has been a decrease in the number of successful attacks on maritime shipments, the geographic expansion of piracy highlights the limitations of the international maritime missions’ containment strategy and effectiveness. This raises the question of whether expanding the international anti-piracy missions would be both effective and sustainable.
With financially and strategically challenged maritime missions, the international community and the EU should start considering onshore approaches to Somali piracy, strengthening local onshore capacity and ownership of security which have a direct impact on offshore security.
In February 2012 General Håkan Syrén, chairman of the EU Military Committee (EUMC), said that 27 defence chiefs and EU ambassadors agreed that anti-piracy campaigns to halt Somali piracy must now move on to land, using “robust” force which means that “strikes would be necessary” (IHS Jane’s 2012), subsequently changing the rules of engagement. For a legal perspective on this recent endorsement and implications, see Salomon (2012). This military escalation may undermine the sustainable strengthening of Somali local security forces, and run the risk of exacerbating current problems. In order to understand the impediments and chances to tackle piracy in Somalia it is important to understand its local dynamics.
1.2 Local context of the Somali piracy Piracy is not a new phenomenon in Somalia. While in the early 1990s, foreign navies illegally fishing in Somali territorial waters may have been a prime driver and still a source of local legitimacy for piracy, the dynamic changed over the last years into a professional enterprise.
By 2008 piracy off the coast of Somalia reached a critical level and triggered the first international initiatives to contain the problem on sea. Piracy itself is a symptom of political instability, not its cause. A permissive context for the enterprise is a weak political environment: stable enough to operate a base and protect piracy revenues, but also not too stable, since an increased effectiveness by security forces might impede operations. Generally Somali pirates operate in small, locally and along (sub-)clan affiliation recruited groups in a low cost fashion and in a diverse range of political contexts inside Somalia (Hansen 2009).
Historically speaking, piracy was dominated by two principal networks based in the northeastern Somali region of Puntland as well as the Xaradheere and Hobyo districts of Mudug region. Due to sustained pressure by local elders and crackdowns on pirates since early 2011 by the Puntland authorities, many pirates relocated further south to Galmudug region, which is the new hub for pirate operations, albeit the shores of Puntland are still important. Piracy operations in the south of the country are on the increase but are still relatively low when compared to piracy operations in the north. Pirates operating for example near the southern port of Kismaayo are under increased pressure from the ongoing Kenyan military offensive on the one hand and militant groups such as the Al-Shabaab militia from the other. To date there is no known connection between piracy and the militant Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab militia, which historically opposed piracy. Local exceptions are based not on ideology but (sub-)clan affiliations. Nevertheless, Al-Shabaab is finding itself under increasing pressure and might change its stance on piracy for pragmatic reasons to gain new revenues in the near future in exchange for allowing pirates operate in areas under their control2. So far only Somaliland, the de-facto autonomous region in the northwest of the country and safest part of Somalia, is virtually free of piracy (UN Security Council 2011).
The moral economy of piracy: Using local legitimacy and interests However, in order to understand the prevalence of piracy in Somalia, one also has to look at what Roland Marchal called the “moral economy of piracy.” The permissive environment for piracy is also found in the perception of many local people who see pirates “as genuine nationalists who fight the looting of national assets and fine foreign vessels recurrently accused of depriving Somalis of their national wealth and of dumping toxic waste in Somali territorial waters, if not even onshore” (Marchal 2011). This narrative is reinforced by the fact that pirates can claim to have been connected once to coastal guards.
An even more important factor of support from the local people is the way pirates split their ransom revenues with the local community. A look at the pirate value chain shows that approx. 70% of the revenues go to financiers, sponsors, officers and families, whereas approx.
30% go to the pirates themselves, the support crew, traders, vehicle owners, translators, local businesses and suppliers which benefits also casual labour and pastoralists, particularly in Puntland (Geopolicy 2011). Key beneficiaries invest locally and regionally which in turn leads to a remarkable extension of popular legitimacy. Overall, there is a lack of data about the developmental effects of piracy, with one recent study suggesting – based on satellite images only – that a construction boom in the provincial capitals Garowe and Bosasso might be linked to piracy revenues (Shortland 2012).