UN envoy to Somalia calls for boost in international efforts to fight piracy

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Claiming that piracy off the coast of Somalia is wreaking global havoc, the top United Nations representative for the Horn of Africa country has called for an increase in efforts to fight what he calls an “international scourge.”
“I strongly believe that concrete efforts, such as the international maritime presence off the Somali coast, should be increased to help marginalize and suppress piracy,” Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday.
Commenting on the recent upsurge in pirate activity, the UN News Centre adds Ould-Abdallah said that, “without the maritime presence, the pandemic would have been far worse. Those contributing to the international presence are doing an excellent job, but they have a huge area to cover.”
He maintained that the recent operations by the governments of the United States and France are sending a strong message to the pirates and their backers who, he said, “are exploiting the poverty and desperation of their young, unemployed compatriots.”
Some 300 hostages and 17 vessels are being held by a small group who are only interested in maximizing their illegal profits, Ould-Abdallah claimed.
“To ensure stability in Somalia and the region, as well as the freedom of navigation, the financial backers of the pirates should be identified quickly and held accountable,” said Ould-Abdallah.
He stressed, however, that a military solution, while essential, should be complemented by credible development activity.
Somalia`s fledgling Government of National Unity, established in February, is tasked with fighting lawlessness in the country, which has been riven by factional fighting and had not had a functioning central government since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991.
South Korea joins the hunt
Meanwhile Reuters reports a South Korean destroyer started the country’s first naval mission abroad this morning.
The Gulf of Aden is a key shipping route for South Korean vessels as they sail from the Middle East with crude oil for the world’s fifth largest buyer.
“Our (unit) that was dispatched to Somali waters on 13 March for the protection of our vessels has begun escorting them today,” the Koran defence ministry said in a statement.
South Korean cargo vessels have been captured by Somali pirates in recent years and sailors held hostage for ransom. In February, South Korean sailors were among 23 who were released after being held for months.
About 460 South Korean vessels pass the gulf every year, according to government data.
Reuters also reports navies have agreed to protect a vessel installing an undersea high-speed Internet cable from pirates off the coast of Somalia.
Kenyan Information and Communications Minister Samuel Poghisio said the 5000km fibre-optic cable was on course for completion in June.
Last month, a government official said the route for the East African Marine Cable (TEAMS) had been shifted an extra 200 km from the coastline for fear of pirates.
“These are concerns we have but they are being addressed. We know it will be secure and will land in Mombasa on time,” Poghisio said.
“The process (of laying the cable) has begun and will probably take two months. It is likely that by the middle of June the ship should be anchoring in Mombasa, or rather delivering the cable to Mombasa,” he added.
The US$130 million cable will link Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa with Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
Kenya has been putting down a terrestrial cable connecting different parts of the country to prepare for the arrival of the marine cable, which could be east Africa’s first speedy but cheap telecoms link with the rest of the world.
Another undersea project known as SEACOM is also expected to be operational in the second half of 2009 and two others are due to land in 2010 — the Eastern African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) and the France Telecom/Orange Sat3-wasc-Safe cable.
East Africa has relied on expensive satellite connections for telephones and Internet.
Telecoms operators and outsourcing firms are eagerly awaiting the cable’s arrival, which is expected to slash costs and speed up connectivity.