DUBAI // Piracy is the by-product of unemployment and disregard faced by entire generations of young men and women in Somalia, according to the founder of one Somali NGO. Omer Jama Farah, who is also the current director of the Taakulo Somali Community, believes that piracy in his country can be prevented in his country by creating jobs and taking care of orphaned children with the help of countries such as the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Farah was in the UAE to attend a panel composed of public and private sector organizations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with the aim of eradicating piracy. He believes “The risk of piracy continues and if we create new opportunities for youth and awareness spreads among them, then they will not engage with illegal groups to make ends meet and will not join pirates.”
The Taakulo Somali Community provides aid and support to areas plagued by drought, lack of education and poor health care in remote places in Somalia. It is from these areas in particular that pirates are recruited. According to Mr. Farah, “The level of piracy may have reduced but groups are still training, collecting and recruiting young people so we have to take precautions and save these youths. It is very crucial to work with organisations in the UAE to fight piracy with job creation for women and the youth. It is now also vital to reach inaccessible regions to tackle basic issues of severe water shortages.”
Attending the panel were 54 representatives of government, non-government and industry from Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland and the UAE. Among the proposals put forward at the meeting were a sponsorship program to pay for 5,000 orphans’ schooling and living expenses, as well as professional training for young people.
Mr Farah is convinced that “We must try to make them a part of the community by showing them a better way of life. Job creation for women will also help them generate income and send their children to school. The UAE is already helping with development and emergency aid and we are hoping for more cooperation.”
The Emirates already lends support to Somalia in the form of food aid and projects to provide safe drinking water and pledged Dh183 million in May last year to step up security in Somalia, boost political cooperation and give humanitarian aid.
The focus of the latest initiative is how Somalis can help themselves by becoming self-reliant. Mohammed Sharaf, the chief executive of DP World, the organizer of the panel, believes that it is important that young Somalis are encouraged to become involved in the development of their own country and establish their own local businesses.
Although at sea skirmishes have recently been reported by the maritime authorities, there has been a marked decline in the success of piracy over the past two years. The new government, which was elected and came to power in 2012, promised to end the civil war and inter-clan fighting which ensued after the country’s dictator Siad Barre was deposed in 1991. The most recent unsuccessful attempt to hijack a tanker headed to Fujairah was foiled thanks to the ship’s armed guards, who were able to successfully ward off the pirates.
But piracy around the Horn of Africa remains a threat and, according to Mohammed Osman Ahmed, the executive director of the Somaliland Counter Piracy Coordination Office, “Regional stakeholders have to remain vigilant. The piracy business framework in south central Somalia is believed to be intact, according to our intelligence. Piracy motivated by revenge of arrested piracy chiefs may be in the pipeline.” He maintains that “piracy will remain a threat as long as young Somalis have access to arms on the Horn of Africa and have no means to earn their living legally either on sea or land […] but successful hijacking has not happened for two years because of private armed security guards on ships and naval presence.”