If the signal before now in the world’s number one rogue state was amber, this week it moved into crimson red. It is the recent bloodletting of 3 Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden that has sparked the latest act of brigandage. US President Barack Obama’s pledge to come down hard on the pirates following the seizure of an American vessel last weekend has been met equal ferocity. The vessel’s captain offered to be the paschal lamb while the rest of his crew escaped. The four buccaneers stalled greedily waiting for their ransom but paid the price losing three of their ilk to superior American sniper fire. The US says it will try the fourth pirate in the US while US secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, labelled the activities of the pirates, criminal and promised a wide range of actions including freezing pirates’ assets and also improving the Somali economy.
Mr. Sharmake Somalia’s PM says his country is formulating a rapid reaction force that would be used to stop the pirates. He warned that the pirates can only be defeated on land.
But on land, Bakara market is the facsimile of hell; a pungent, putrid and unsettling reminder to the United States of a failed misadventure to purify the Islamic state of Islamist fundamentalists led Mohammed Farah Aidid in the early 1990’s which led to the loss of 13 American soldiers. 1 million AK-47’s and several thousand RPG’s in Bakara market equals to nearly two- score-years of political instability which has contributed grossly to underdevelopment and poverty.
It is doubtful if the nascent Obama administration would dare to touch-down an American camouflage at the Mogadishu international airport-last year’s scene of a long stand-off between Islamist militia’s and the AU’s peace-keeping force. The militants had warned the AU not to land its aircrafts and the AU disobeyed to its huge disadvantage. Nigeria which is Africa’s biggest supplier of troops to troubled spots in the continent has been mute; its foreign affairs minister, Ojo Maduekwe had stunned Nigeria’s local press two months ago when he said Nigeria was not ready for the body bags. There is no Nigerian soldier in Somalia
The Gulf of Aden has suddenly become some sort of aquatic United Nations-the western world’s odyssey. This week, South Korea sent in a war ship to escort one of its several commercial vessels which make use of the route yearly adding to nearly two dozen international naval forces
Armed with high tech communication gadgets; sat phones, GPS devices and rocket propelled grenades, these bands of Somali teenagers are slowly turned the Gulf of Aden to an off-shore Bakara market. Last year alone the pirates made a whooping 80 million dollars in ransom money. The presence of international warships hasn’t yet scratched the surface of the problem. In response to President Obama’s riot act, 5 commercial vessels were hijacked in 72 hours, and toll keeps rising
Across board, most leaders, analysts know that shock and awe alone would not get the job done-Iraq and Afghanistan are vivid reminders. Security officials have admitted that it is difficult to attack the pirates because of the hostages on board and sailors have been advised to travel on a particular speed so as to be ahead of the pirates and also have security watch but the pirates have been known to travel at early hours ahead of the sailors.
In the end some respite could be achieved by improving working ties and economic aid to the Al-Shabbab central government that has been responsible for much of the violence in the past. The west however would be wary of dealing with a terrorist look-alike government, but then there are very limited options available other than brokering this fiendish pact; to coin a phrase it’s deciding between the devil and the deep blue sea.