Pirates of Somalia- A legit story

BY Apoorva Sonwane, 21 Feb, 2018

Global Jigyasa - Countries 101

Neighbouring Regions

Somalia is located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by:


  • Ethiopia to the West
  • Djibouti to the Northwest
  • Gulf of Eden to the North
  • Indian Ocean to the East
  • Kenya to the Southwest

Capital and Political System of Somalia

The capital of Somalia is Mogadishu. The chief of state is the President, currently Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. And the head of government is the Prime Minister, currently Hassan Ali Khayre, who was appointed in February 2017 and approved by the parliament in March 2017.


Somalia is a federal parliamentary republic and its parliament is a bicameral one.

Current Status of Somalia

 The country faces a severe problem of the lack of effective governance. The economy is largely based on livestock, money transfer companies, and telecommunications. Agriculture is the most important sector for the country’s economy. Livestock usually accounts for about 40% of GDP.


Somalia collapsed into anarchy after the overthrow of the military regime of President Siad Barre in the year 1991. The US military arrived in Somalia in 1992. The US President, George Bush Sr at the time, responded to the UN Security Council resolution 794 (in the year 1992) and Operation Restore Hope was initiated.   In the following year, Somali rebels shot down two US helicopters. This led to a war situation killing hundreds of Somali citizens. In 2001, the UN announced that it would be pulling out its international staff from Somalia because they couldn’t guarantee their safety. 2004 was a momentous year in the history of Somalia, since the transitional government was installed in Kenya. Abdullahi Yusuf was elected as the president. The inaugural government returned to Somalia in 2005 but the rivalry with the rebel forces still remained. The country has faced gruesome drought and famine conditions between 2006 and 2008. Around 3.5 million Somalis suffered due to severe food shortage. Furthermore, in 2018, the piracy problem along the coast of Somalia got a lot of attention from the international community. The United Nations Security Council voted to allow warships from other countries to patrol the territorial waters of Somalia as this issue became more critical. The UN declared a famine situation in South Somalia in July 2011. With the permission of Al-Shabaab, various foreign aid agencies got access to some areas.


Since 2012, Somalia has been moving towards stability; however, the new government authorities face a challenge from the Al-Shabab.  The armed group Al Shabab is fighting Somalia’s internationally-backed government. The Somali government is backed by the United Nations, the United States of America as well as the African Union. Al-Shabaab wants to impose a strict interpretation of Islam in the country. They advocate the doctrine Wahhabism; while most Somalis are Sufi Muslims.


The Somali capital – Mogadishu has witnessed some of its deadliest attacks in the year 2017. Most of the attacks are carried out by the Al-Shabaab. There have also been attacks on civilians by Somali government forces and allied militia. Attacks between the Puntland forces and Galmudug Interim Regional forces led to civilian casualties in 2016. Currently, attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, especially by Al-Shabab continue to have a devastating impact in the country. Over 1 million Somalis are internally displaced. They are facing critical abuses such as arbitrary attacks and detention, sexual violence and extremely limited access to basic services. 400,000 internally displaced people are living in the capital alone.These people stay in remarkably vulnerable conditions and are reliant on assistance.


Another major issue in the country is that of sexual violence. Internally displaced women and girls are especially vulnerable to rape by armed men. Protection of the most vulnerable communities in the country is primarily non-existent. Displaced persons and access to humanitarian assistance is a pressing issue in the country. Human Rights Watch and other organizations have continued documenting serious abuses against displaced people living in government-controlled areas including rape and forced evictions.

Issues of International Importance

Piracy Along the Coast of Somalia

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been an issue over the years. In 2008, a British captain Collin Darch was seized by Somali pirates who attacked his ship along the country’s coast. In November that year, Maersk, the largest shipping company announced that their oil tankers would be taking a detour to avoid any threats from the pirates. Multiple such incidents have been reported. During their pinnacle, in 2011, the Somali pirates had launched 237 attacks off the coast and held hundreds of hostages. Due to the involvement of international naval forces in late 2000s, piracy along the coast of Somalia had decreased. However, in 2017, there were reports of an Indian cargo vessel being hijacked.  In May that year, the Somali pirates also hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel to use as a base to attack bigger ships.


Illegal fishing by foreign/international vessels is usually regarded as the root cause for piracy along Somalia’s coast – as this is essentially an attempt by the fishermen to guard their shore. This illegal fishing inflicts damage on the local communities for whom fishing is not only a tradition, but also means of livelihood. And depletion of fish stocks does not only mean scarcity of income, but also of food. While the hijacking and seizure of ships along the coast of Somalia continues to affect international shipping lanes, it remains a major threat to the world.


Kenya-Somalia Maritime Border Dispute

A narrow triangular area in the coast of Africa, between Kenya and Somalia has been a cause for dispute between the two countries. Both the countries want control of the area because of its abundant deposits of oil and gas. In 2009, both Somalia and Kenya came to an agreement that the UN committee responsible for intervening in border disputes should determine the border line. Furthermore, both parties agreed to work on a solution together. However, in effect, things didn’t work out as planned. In 2014, Somalia instituted legal proceedings against Kenya at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The Somali government claimed that despite both parties meeting and discussing this issue several times, no progress was made. Eventually, in 2015, Kenya opposed this litigation considering that both parties had agreed to settle the dispute outside court.  In the ICJ’s final judgment in the year 2017, it rejected the objection raised by Kenya and stated that Somalia’s application is admissible and the ICJ has jurisdiction to entertain this application.


 Ethnic Group Distribution

  1. Somali 85%
  2. Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including 30,000 Arabs)


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