Focus shifts to Somalia and plight of captured sailors
Dubai (RBC) Attacks by pirates have fallen in recent months, thanks to active patrolling by coalition navies and the arrival of the Southwest Monsoon.
Governments led by the UAE, and the shipping industry feel this is the right time to get on with the development work in Somalia and focus on the plight of crews and vessels in the captivity of pirates.
There was unanimous agreement at the second counter-piracy conference which opened in Dubai on Wednesday that gains from the political process should be taken forward, with continued assistance for infrastructure development and creation of jobs. There was also concern for the coastal environment near the Horn of Africa, which some leaders from the country brought up during discussions.
Somalia’s fledgling marine forces must be better equipped and its transitional President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed sought more funds for its 6,000 coastal troops.
Military, financial and political support are vital for the country to get back on its feet after 21 years of slipping in all indicators.
Over the past four years, the UAE has disbursed more than $25 million in humanitarian and financial assistance to Somalia, with a focus on healthcare.
The public-private partnership promoted by the UAE is making progress, but perils faced by sailors are worrying governments, shipping companies and families, which have had to shell out ransom amounts worth $160 million in 31 cases last year for their release after long confinements.
Compared with 176 incidents in 2011, there have been around 30 in the six months of this year, and the pirates’ success rate has been halved from 28% in 2009 to 14% last year.
But violence against sailors is a disturbing trend and the number of seafarers dying as a result of piracy has tripled from eight to 24 during the same two-year period. Since 2007, 62 seafarers have died as a direct result of piracy in this part of the world.
Transitional Federal Government of Somalia President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said the world must do more to support his country politically and militarily as it battles Al Shabaab rebels, social strife and piracy.
In response, the UAE said it would contribute more for welfare work and the boosting the military. “The UAE is pleased to contribute US$1 million to building and upgrading capabilities of Somali naval forces and coast guard to carry out their missions properly,” said Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in his speech read out by Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs.
A combined will against the scourge of piracy and for Somalia’s development was on show at the conference attended by 400 delegates. DP World chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem summed it up nicely when he said: ‘‘The need of the hour is to explore new ways to secure the freedom of those held captive, curb the reach of the pirates, provide comprehensive support to Somalia, and crystalise the unified stance created by our public-private partnership.”
The Somali delegation was all praise for the role played by the UAE, and Augustine Mahiga, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to Somalia, said the political process was on track and a draft constitution agreed to in Nairobi last week would pave the way for a new parliament and the creation of institutions. The seven-year-old transitional government’s tenure ends on August 20.
African Union troops and UN forces have contained the rebel Al Shabaab and are pushing into their dens in Kismayo.
“This is a new beginning for Somalia. The London conference earlier this year expedited the political process and the solution lies on sea and on land,” said Mahiga. The conference ends today.