Piracy problem inseparable from overall Somali crisis, Ban warns

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre) addresses Security Council meeting on Somalia

16 December 2008 – As the United Nations Security Council strengthened efforts today to fight piracy off the Somali coast, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the problem could not be divorced from the need to bring a comprehensive, inclusive peace to the war-torn country that has been without a functioning central government since 1991.

“We must be mindful that piracy is a symptom of the state of anarchy which has persisted in that country for over 17 years,” Mr. Ban told the 15-member body, which unanimously adopted a resolution reiterating earlier calls to countries and regional organizations with the necessary capability to deploy naval ships and military aircraft off the coast and laying out additional measures to bring the pirates to justice and possibly go after them on land.

“Our anti-piracy efforts must be placed in the context of a comprehensive approach which fosters an inclusive peace process in Somalia and assists the parties to rebuild security, governance capacity, address human rights issues and harness economic opportunities throughout the country,” he said.

Noting that Ethiopia’s plan to withdraw its troops from Somalia by the end of the year could easily lead to chaos, he recommended as “the realistic option at this time” strengthening the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) through financing, logistical support, necessary training, equipment and other reinforcements facilitated by the UN and Member States.

While the most appropriate response to the complex security challenges is a Multinational Force (MNF), rather than a typical peacekeeping operation, with full military capabilities to support the cessation of armed confrontation, he said no Member State had offered to play the lead nation role and the response had not been encouraging from the 50 countries and three international organizations he had approached for contributions.

If the enhanced AMISOM arrangement proved successful, it would pave the way for deploying UN peacekeepers, he added, pointing out that the Council could consider setting up a Maritime Task Force or adding a quick reaction component to the current anti-piracy efforts to launch operations into Somalia in support of UN humanitarian activities and AMISOM.

Mr. Ban stressed that the responsibility to bring peace rests primarily with the Somalis themselves, regretted the continuing feuding within the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and recent division between the President and Prime Minister, and urged armed groups that cite Ethiopia’s withdrawal as a condition for ending the fighting to join the Djibouti peace process already underway between the TGF and Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS).

In its resolution the Council called on States and regional organizations fighting piracy to conclude agreements with countries, especially in the region, willing to take custody of pirates to put their own law enforcement officials on board as ‘ship riders’ to prosecute detained suspects.

It decided that for 12 months, States and regional organizations cooperating in the fight against piracy “for which advance notification has been provided by the TFG to the Secretary-General may undertake all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia, for the purpose of suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, pursuant to the request of the TFG.”

It also noted that escalating ransom payments are fuelling the growth of piracy, and that the lack of enforcement of the 1992 arms embargo has given pirates ready access to arms and ammunition.

Earlier today, the UN crime-fighting agency endorsed a regional ‘ship rider’ approach to bring the pirates to justice similar to one that has proved successful in fighting drug traffickers in the Caribbean.

The so-called International Contact Group, meeting today at UN headquarters under the chairmanship of Mr. Ban’s Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, also voiced serious concern at the continued dispute between the TGF leaders, urged all Somali parties to participate in the Djibouti process and called for more for more resources and material support for AMISOM.


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