Japan will train 200 maritime police, provide equipment and develop Bososo port in Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland in an effort to combat piracy, Puntland officials say.
Mohamed Raage, Puntland’s minister of sea transport, told Somalia Report that during an international anti-piracy meeting in Tokyo Japan also promised to equip Puntland’s maritime police. Raage said that they hoped the project would begin early next year.
“We told the international community that the best, most effective anti-piracy solution is to support our local maritime police and to fight pirates on land,” Raage told Somalia Report.
Japan plays an active part in anti-piracy efforts by escorting World Food Programme ships to Somalia and patrolling for pirates in the Indian Ocean.
The Japan Coast Guard is providing training courses to personnel in Puntland, including a course on maritime law enforcement.
Delegations from Puntland, Djibouti, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, representatives from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), as well as observers from the United States and the European Union attended the counter-piracy meeting, Somalia Report says.
The breakaway enclave of Somaliland and semi-autonomous Puntland, itself a centre of piracy, are seen as relatively stable compared with the rest of the Horn of Africa country, where a weak interim government is battling Islamist insurgents.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are already helping local authorities in the Somaliland and Puntland regions of Somalia to build the capacity of the local courts to try piracy cases.
Bringing the courts in Somaliland and Puntland to international standards could take three years.
The UNDP and UNODC assistance programmes have faced the challenges of seriously out-of-date criminal and procedural codes and shortages of trained judges and other legal professionals.
Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, the President of Puntland, last month said that a total of 240 pirates were currently being held in Puntland prisons, but he added that there was an overwhelming lack of correctional facilities available within the state.
“The cost of Somali piracy in Puntland impacted various sectors,” Farole said. “This includes disruption of coastal economic activities, which historically constitutes an economic pillar for our communities and foreign exchange earnings from sea product export. Piracy has contributed towards insecurity, such as buying weapons and committing various crimes including killings. This led to enormous increase of the security costs of the State to mount extensive security operations against piracy activities in Puntland, as well as prison services and prosecution costs. Currently, our Government has in custody 242 convicted pirates and piracy suspects awaiting trial. According to U.N. data, this is the largest concentration of Somali pirates jailed in over 20 countries worldwide.
“Since piracy’s inception in Somalia, the pirates have targeted mainly foreign commercial vessels expecting major ransom payments. However, in recent months, the Somali pirates have turned to hijack Somali-owned small vessels or vessels transporting goods to and from Somalia, including wooden dhows carrying livestock.
This unprecedented shift has signaled a new alarm. The Puntland Port of Bossaso is our economic lifeline and our gateway to global trade networks. We do not have any paved airports in Puntland for air transport. We have this single port that serves communities in the whole Somalia and also eastern Ethiopia. Any threat to this vital economic lifeline is a threat against the security, stability and economy of Puntland State of Somalia, which also impacts the smooth flow of trade traffic across the whole region.
“Our challenges include instituting an anti-piracy force to combat pirates on land and along the coast. The physical nature of Puntland territory is also a big challenge, due to difficulties accessing pirate hideouts among valleys, mountains and a long coastline. Our attempt to establish a Puntland Maritime Police (PMP) force in 2010 has been met with some difficulties.
“There are cost-friendly options to solve the Somali piracy crisis. Puntland needs support for training and incentives for security forces, access to vehicles and equipment, is a strong alternative approach to tackling piracy. Support for prisons and judiciary capacity building are critical components of this approach. With a meager annual budget, Puntland Government has managed to increase the judiciary budget four-fold since 2009, demonstrating our commitment to security and justice.
“The UK Government’s provision of £2million to community engagement and economic development projects for coastal regions is a great start aimed at addressing the underlying causes of piracy, primarily lack of employment opportunities and disruption of fishing industry. Funding such quick-impact projects, together with construction of prisons, will go a long way to address piracy at home in Somalia.
“The anti-piracy force training program, supported by our benefactor, the United Arab Emirates, was suspended in February 2011. This program is designed to train Puntland marines to fight pirates on land and offshore. We plan to establish three strategically important coastal sites in Puntland as ideal locations to base anti-piracy forces to synchronize our onshore and offshore efforts to combat piracy, namely: 1) Bossaso port city along the Gulf of Aden coast; 2) Eyl town located along the Indian Ocean coast; and 3) Bargal town, located at the tip of the Horn of Africa (near Cape of Gardafui).
“Finally, we believe that expensive naval patrols off the coast of Somalia will remain ineffective to eradicate piracy, as long as the world continues to neglect the domestic conditions that produce piracy. Without addressing such conditions, military action alone is not a panacea and is indeed a short-term remedy to effectively addressing the piracy problem.
“We again urge the U.N. Security Council to extend the mandate of international navies operating off the Somali coast to engage in operations against pirates organizing around the coast, in cooperation with Somali authorities. Furthermore, we reiterate our firm position rejecting ransom payments as the primary factor fuelling piracy activities.”