Earlier this week, Somalia’s prime minister and presidential hopeful Abdiweli Mohamed Ali announced that his government seeks to establish a marine task force to stop “foreign countries and companies from taking Somalia’s resources illegitimately.”
Ali is getting ahead of himself. Instead of looking to expand the government’s use of force, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) should fix its internal problems first. Piracy and other criminal activities off the Somali coastline originate on land, not the high seas.
The TFG is the 14th attempt to establish governance in Somalia. On August 20, the TFG’s mandate runs out and the transition to a new government is supposed to be put in place. (The process is already behind schedule.) During its tenure, the TFG has proven either unwilling or, more likely, unable to defend the Somali people against terrorism or address basic needs during last year’s famine. Considering these circumstances, it is unrealistic to believe that the TFG could establish an effective maritime task force.
Furthermore, the TFG’s rampant corruption and misuse of international assistance makes it an unreliable partner. According to J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council, 96 percent of bilateral aid to Somalia is unaccounted for. Furthermore, Somalia’s National Security Force (NSF) is known for splitting loyalties between the TFG and the al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Shabaab. Of the 9,000 NSF soldiers the United States and Europe have trained, 90 percent have defected, taking their arms and equipment with them.
Furthermore, it is curious that Ali would want to take such pains to secure Somalia’s coastline considering that high-level government officials are deeply involved in the country’s pirate industry, often using their influence to protect pirates from prosecution. In April 2012, Mohamed Abdi Hassan “Afweyne,” one of the most influential leaders in the Hobyo-Harardheere piracy network, was questioned by Malaysian authorities as to the authenticity of his diplomatic passport. According to the report, it was Somali TFG President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed who authorized Afweyne’s passport. Sheikh Sharif is also a contender for the presidency in the next government.
Establishing a viable central government in Somalia will require leaders that look to serve the needs of the Somali people rather than their own interests. As the deadline for the establishment of a new government nears, the prospects for fresh leadership are dim, and the fear that this transition will mirror the current government is likely to become reality.