Monday, June 8, 2009

"Surgical aid strike" to Puntland to stop pirates

I caught up with Roger Middleton the other day for some insights into the Somali pirate issue. An African studies major currently at the Chatham House think tank, he had some very interesting insights into how to resolve the pirate problem.

Puntland – the province in northern Somalia that is the greatest source of pirates in the region – has a functioning local government. Now, Puntland isn’t exactly a model for stability but it’s in better shape than the national government that has trouble controlling its own capital in Mogadishu.

Roger’s perspective is that working with the local Puntland government directly to train and arm a local police force has a much higher chance of success than throwing money at the government in Mogadishu.

“It does have a reasonable degree of control over its territory,” Roger said. “Prospects of improving things in Puntland are more rosy.”

But this “surgical aid strike” option has its own risks, as Roger readily admitted:
  1. The main government might not take too kindly to foreign aid and training going directly to a province. They might make a stink that foreigners were meddling in their internal affairs.
  2. Association with foreign powers is political suicide in Somalia. History has shown that Somalis don’t take kindly to perceived foreign intervention.
  3. Half measures can be as dangerous as doing nothing at all. Establishing and arming a police force isn’t enough; they need to be adequately trained. As we saw in Mogadishu, a poorly trained police force abused its status and ultimately seriously undermined the government

1 comment:

MeatAxe said...

As we discovered in Afghanistan, sometimes if you train and arm the locals, they end up fighting against you later on.

Sometimes they even end up using the very weapons you gave them.

If we went down this path, I'd want to know what incentive or motivation the Puntland Province has to fight pirates right now.

If they don't have one now, arming and training them won't provide one.