Tuesday, December 16, 2008

U.N. Calls for Ship Riders

Today, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said police from Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania or Yemen could patrol waters off the coast of Somalia as "ship riders" and arrest pirates in the name of their country, increasing their chances of a trial.

The ship rider technique, already used to fight drug trafficking in the Caribbean Sea, is more realistic than putting pirates on trial in their home country since Somalia's criminal justice system is almost non-existent.

Political Rifts Deepening in Somalia

On Tuesday, Somali president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed appointed a new prime minister, but the previous prime minister is refusing to accept his dismissal and is backed by the country's Parliament.

On Monday the Parliament backed Nur Hassan Hussein, who has been prime minister for about 13 months. But the president named Mohamed Mohamud Guled as the new prime minister because he's a close ally of the transitional federal government, the new Somali premier. It is a move "certain to deepen the political impasse in a country already struggling with an Islamist revolt, a refugee crisis and rampant lawlessness that has fueled awave of piracy off the Horn of Africa."

Heightening Tension

The move by Ahmed also has caused concerns from neighboring Ethiopia, which which has been protecting the Somali government with troops. Ethiopia recently announced it would withdraw its troops by the end of this month, which will leave the government vulnerable to Islamic insurgents, who began a brutal insurgency in 2007.

United Nations officials are now in crisis mode, calling high-level meetings in East Africa and New York to address piracy and the greater Somali problems. Some U.N. officials are pushing to send in peacekeepers, but no countries are rushing to offer troops.

Pirate Hunting

A number of international warships equipped with high-tech tools like radar and long-range cannons are now patrolling the Gulf of Aden.

An Italian officer said that going after them in a 485-foot-long destroyer, bristling with surface-to-air missiles and torpedoes, was like “going after someone on a bicycle with a truck.”

But international law in the seas is restricting some countries in their hunts for the pirates. Several times this year, the Danish Navy captured men they suspected to be pirates, but they had to drop them on shore because their government decided it did not have jurisdiction.

Vice-Admiral Gerard Valin, the commander of the French naval operation in the Indian Ocean, said the piracy will only be defeated by a strong government in Somalia.

Deception to fight pirates?

The Washington Post printed an interesting letter to the editor last week, with a creative way to fight the Somali pirates. The writer called for trapping the invading pirates with a decoy vessel loaded with explosives. Apparently the tactic was used in WWI against German submarines.

Unfortunately, the writer of the letter seems to be more concerned than the Bush administration, which is mounting a last-ditch push this week to muster international backing for a relatively small U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia to help stem piracy and prevent the resurgence of Islamist militants.