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Arms embargo against Somali pirates

Monday, May 21, 2012

The international community is intensifying its efforts to combat maritime piracy in Somalia. While the U.S. and the EU take additional military measures to eliminate strongholds of the pirates on the coast, private companies are creating their own guards to protect their cargo.

Under these conditions, Russia insists on taking more effective measures to prevent smuggling of weapons, allowing the sea robbers to be armed with the latest technology.
Their arsenal includes machine guns, grenade launchers, "Stingers" and ship mines.
The problem of arms trafficking in Somalia has been acute for quite a long time. After the collapse of the dictatorial regime of Siad Barre in 1991, the country immerged in chaos. In 1992 the UN introduced an embargo on arms supplies to Somalia. However, it is impossible to control all possible ways of smuggling arms on the coast of the Horn of Africa.

Since 1990s, just about anyone has been supplying weapons into the country engulfed with a civil war. Islamists were actively assisted by Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Hezbollah. Some Western countries were also caught supplying arms to Somalia. For example, the UK signed a contract to sell a fairly large shipment of small arms. In 2009, after the lifting of the embargo, the U.S. began to actively arm the officially recognized government of Somalia. However, with a weak central government the weapons at any time can be sold to pirates or hijacked by extremists.

Somali piracy attacks on merchant ships have become widespread in 2004-2005. If before the assaults were committed with the intent to rob, now the ships are captured along with crews in order to obtain large ransoms. One of the most notorious crimes of the Somali pirates was the seizure of Ukrainian vessel "Panagia" on October 18, 2005 with a crew of 23 people. The sum of ransom paid to the bandits was 700 thousand dollars.

Since 2008, the European Union and NATO began to send their warships to protect merchant fleets in large numbers. In September of 2008, Russia made an official statement about directing its warships to take part in patrolling the coast of the Horn of Africa.

In order to combat piracy, conferences with leading countries of the world community are regularly convened. One such conference was held in 2011 in Dubai. By calculating the total damage from the subversion of pirates from Somalia, economists have come to the disappointing conclusion: the international trade loses from seven to 12 billion dollars each year.

Recently, Western countries have agreed with the Somali government on additional military measures that can be used by NATO forces against the extremists. Russia advocates for the adoption of more effective measures to prevent the smuggling of arms into Somalia.

Russia's permanent representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin spoke about the negative consequences of said arms trafficking. At a meeting of the Security Council on the situation of the world organization in Somalia on May 15, the Russian diplomat said that today "strengthening of the arms embargo and suppression of channels feeding arms of extremists, including those from Libya and other troubled regions of Africa and the Middle East, is more important than ever. There is need in more rigorous monitoring of compliance with the embargo of coal," Vitaly Churkin was quoted by media.

Although the frequency of pirate attacks in Somali waters has declined in the first half of 2012, the threat to merchant ships still exists. In this regard, many experts are once again talking about the ineffectiveness of the efforts of the international community in combating this evil. Recently a private company was created that will deal with the protection of cargo ships from pirate attacks. Protective fleet will be composed of up to 20 speedboats. Services of private guards will cost dearly: 18,000 dollars per boat.

Some Russian experts have criticized this initiative, seeing it as an attempt to make a fortune on the problem of Somali piracy that should be considered solely at the international level.  

Even if a company has sufficient resources, it is still not joining forces around the world. The combined efforts of the world powers would be much more effective. The global community is interested in eradicating the causes of piracy and its destruction in general. Private entities are only interested in making money," "Voice of Russia" quoted the chairman of the Far Eastern Association of Sea Captains Peter Osichansky.

Despite the fact that in the past six months new initiatives aimed at combating modern pirates have emerged, it is too early to talk about any significant progress in this direction. Against the background of disunity in the UN Security Council, the attempts to solve the problem so far look unconvincing.

Thus, the European Union Navy recently attacked suspected pirates bases in Somalia. These military operations are often accompanied by civilian casualties, which in turn can cause the growth of discontent among local residents, who will continue to swell the ranks of the pirates and the Islamists.


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