6 – In cooperation with the local authorities, the forces of world order should create an infrastructural construction program in Puntland and northern Somalia that is sufficiently robust, visible, and rapid to attract employment opportunities for at-risk and other youths. Such a program need not be a make-work endeavor since all of Somalia and Puntland require roads, harbors, bridges, schools, clinics, and so on. This would be an opportunity to transform local capacities as well as to provide a platform for a land-based economic resurgence. If few need to go to sea, piracy will become too costly for individuals and the enterprise—as currently operated—will wither.

7 – Incentives should be found to encourage local clan and other leaders to switch their allegiances from piracy to a land-based economic resurgence. Since no ideology is involved, powerful economic alternatives should be created to encourage local leaders to move against piracy.

8 – New support from the UN and counter-piracy sources should be directed to those local clan elders and warlords who are prepared to curtail piracy by moving locally against pirate operations or at least taxing the pirates’ profits severely.


9 – In some areas, the pirates may remain better armed and more powerful than are local authorities. It is conceivably possible, if very difficult, for outsiders to strengthen local authorities militarily and to train local militias to curtail piracy directly.

10 – If local authorities are to take charge, they will need justice systems, police forces, jails, and so on. The forces of world order should assist local developmental and institutional building efforts that appear sincere and plausible.

The pirates of Somalia now operate in areas where the strength of local governance is nugatory and where many drivers of governmental action are perverse. To the far south of Somalia, distant from the operations of most pirates, al-Shabab, the fundamentalist Islamist indigenous movement (allied to al-Qaeda), holds sway. The leaders of al-Shabaab have been publicly critical of pirate operations because the pirates support separate sources of power and, supposedly, because Islam does not condone piracy. Any connection between al-Shabaab and pirates needs to be monitored very carefully.

The Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, recognized by the UN and the African Union (AU) and supported by the United States, nominally controls all of Somalia. However, its ambit of power is confined to a small section of Mogadishu and a few other western and central Somali villages and towns. Farther north along the Somali coast are localities and areas controlled by clan-based warlords. Some of the pirate operations are based there, south of the nominal border of Puntland. Within the semiautonomous Puntland region is a major base of pirate operations in Harardhere. None of these governmental entities has thus far managed to exert an influence over any of the pirates. Indeed, it appears as if the pirates dominate most of the potential sources of governance in their areas, and bankroll and/or control alternative sources of political power.

11 – If African states and the AU can be persuaded to recognize the now independent but otherwise unacknowledged polity of Somaliland, doing so will strengthen the incentives for Puntland, which aspires to greater autonomy, and parts or all of the remainder of Somalia to make similar progress in terms of political institution-building. Recognition of Somaliland will thus assist in strengthening accountability and governance in regions that are now pirate infected. Indeed, if Puntland knew that international engagement were possible, following on a full recognition of Somaliland, a powerful incentive would exist for Puntland to exert control over and reduce the threat from pirates on its soil.

II. Following the Money

The international dimension of Somali maritime piracy bears attention. The extent to which Somali piracy is a purely local response to opportunity and perceived grievance is exaggerated. Some of the profits and cash that flow from successful ransoming actions stays at home in Somalia and Puntland, but a large proportion of the off-take from ransoms flows out of Somalia to Kenya, the United Arab Emirates, and other distant points managed by members of the Somali diaspora and entrepreneurs from Europe and Arabia.

The young pirates grow wealthy compared to other young Somali by going out to sea to capture innocent merchant vessels. So do those who provide food and other base services for the pirates and their hostages. But the largest portion of the ransoms that are collected goes to the organizers of the raids, various intermediaries and negotiators, and the syndicates overseas that have been bankrolling the ransom operations. A key driver of the escalation in Somali piracy is the stability of the business model; successful “firms” have grown and evolved, and become more sophisticated technologically and tactically.

12 – The battle against piracy will be assisted when we know precisely where the money goes, who controls the sources of financing, and who receives the profits. Links, direct or indirect, to terror might be uncovered. The United States Treasury and other similar institutions such as the International Centre for Asset Recovery (Basel) already know how to follow illicit money flows. We need to enlist—and increase—their expertise in order to trace ransom proceeds and shares, and thus to reduce their impunity.

13 – With international support and legislation, piracy-fueled assets and bank accounts can be seized, or at least the movement of such funds be impeded. States in the Horn of Africa should be encouraged to pass tough money-laundering laws.

14 – We also urge the forging of a compact among ocean carriers, insurance companies, individuals, and states to cease paying ransoms. If every major shipping firm is on record forbidding the paying of ransoms, and/or if the leading maritime nations agree to deter their own firms from responding to ransom requests, the profits of piracy will ebb. Admittedly, enforcing such a controversial and contested compact will be difficult. The steamship companies feel a powerful economic incentive to recover their ships quickly and an equally powerful moral imperative to free their sailors rapidly. It is the crews that truly suffer psychologically and physically from forced captivity for months at a stretch. But if there were reduced profits from piracy—if ransoms were harder to acquire—the pirates would turn elsewhere for gainful employment.

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