How to Help Somalia
Recent headlines about al-Shabab terrorist bombings in Kenya and the disruption of Somali-originated terror plots in the Netherlands have served to reinforce the conventional view of Somalia as a war-torn country lacking a functioning government and infested with extremists and pirates — the view also expressed by Foreign Policy‘s 2012 Failed States Index, which once again ranked it as the world’s most unstable country.
This view is not entirely wrong. But less widely understood is that several regions in Somalia — particularly Puntland State — have functioning governments that have taken concrete steps to address the threats of terrorism, political fragmentation, and piracy that plague the country as a whole. If the international community wants to get serious about helping Somalia — and combating the internationally dangerous groups that take refuge here — it must increase support for state governments, such as Puntland, and commit itself to a federalist Somalia.
The state government of Puntland, located in northeast Somalia on the Gulf of Aden, was formed in 1998. Puntland’s goal is not independence from Somalia, but a federal system of empowered state governments — the only viable political solution to the country’s political crisis. Only a legitimate federal constitution can reunite a Somalia fragmented by more than 30 years of civil war and misrule. Such a constitution would solve the chronic mistrust among Somali communities, abolish anarchy, and ensure a clearly defined distribution of power, resources, and government functions.
The Somali people deserve peace and stability, and since its establishment, Puntland has made steady progress toward those ends. Puntland has held three successful and peaceful presidential elections and has played a leading role in the road-map process by hosting two National Constitutional Conferences. However, we still face daunting tasks when it comes to the two greatest threats to Somalia’s security and stability: piracy and terrorism. As the recent events in Kenya and Europe show, these threats are not confined to Somalia alone.
Puntland is located at the very tip of the Horn of Africa. An estimated one-third of world maritime trade passes through the waters off our coast each year. Despite the best efforts of the international community, including a flotilla of NATO and EU warships and best practices instituted by the commercial shipping industry, Somali piracy continues to impose a significant tax on the global economy of approximately $7 billion a year. The acts of violence perpetuated by these pirates — common criminals who hijack ships and demand enormous ransoms — imperil the safety of seafarers and too often result in casualties.
The author is the president of Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland
Source: Foreign Policy