The Foreign Office (FCO) website has warned that in Somalia “there is ongoing serious violence, dangerous levels of criminal activity and general internal insecurity”. This news comes just days after the recent statement from Alistair Burt MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who has publically pledged that the FCO will spend £2.25 million on combating Somali pirate attacks off the horn of Africa.
Somalia is a failed state suffering from 20 years of conflict leading to a chronic humanitarian crisis, which in turn produced serious problems for trading vessels in the African water due to piracy from impoverished Somali citizens.
Attacks on passing ships have been widespread in the area, and are estimated to have cost the UK economy £4.39 billion in 2011, according to The American One Earth Future Foundation. Such statistics have prompted a stern movement from the Foreign Office, which recently pledged to spend a total of £2.25 million, of which £714,870 is to be spent on new prisons for captured Somali convicts.
However, since the budget’s announcement, new headlines on terrorist threats towards Westerners are described by the Foreign Office as being “indiscriminate” and in “places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers”. This news highlights the problems that the country is in, the FCO adds: “Following the death of Osama Bin Laden, terrorist groups operating in Somalia have made threats against Westerners and those working for Western organisations in Somalia, including Somaliland.”
And whilst the new funds will complement the results on the fight against piracy in Somalia, which has now reached a five year low according to the International Maritime Bureau, – most likely due to armed private security firms – it is obvious that the country’s issues are far more serious and widespread. What is also not yet known is the use of these funds to tackle non-piracy related crime, such as the current terrorist attacks we are seeing in the failed state, or if there are any future FCO budgets to address terrorist activities in the East African nation.
The Budget breakdown:
· £714,870 of additional funding to the UNODC’s Post Trial Transfer Programme, to complete the construction of a new prison in Garowe, Puntland.
· £62,968 project to tackle corruption in the Somali penal system.
· £151,123 project to develop the Somali coast guard.
· £157,420 to assist UNODC in building a Vulnerable Prisoners Unit in the Seychelles
· £503,746 funding for a brand new and much-needed facility equipped to handle piracy. prosecutions.
· £415,590 towards UNODC’s overall Counter Piracy Programme costs.
· £125,968 for the work of the Trust Fund of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
· £100,774 for bespoke projects in Mauritius in support of the memorandum of understanding agreed at the London Conference last year.
However, in regards to the recent budget, Sir Tony Baldry MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Somaliland and Somalia told me: “I am sure the UK Government is right to be focusing on security, justice, political stability and public financial management in Somalia as being the immediate priorities for trying to get a stable and working Government in Somalia.
“I think my only concerns about piracy are that there needs to be an international court to try pirates. Otherwise we get into the situation where too many pirates disappear, simply because they are never brought to justice.”
This extra money is to be directed towards crime and punishment for Somali convicts which is aimed at reducing piracy. However, what is sure to lack investment and surety is the future of the Somali economy, (GDP per capita is valued currently at $600 a person) which at present have no real plans for improvement to alleviate those in poverty who might consider piracy or crime as a means of survival. What is also certainly true is that until the Somali poverty can be addressed, crime will be rife in all parts of the country, which is something that no government’s foreign budget can fix, it seems.