Create jobs to eradicate piracy, UAE hears

The young people of Somalia will not become pirates if they are given the opportunity of learning a trade, meeting in UAE is told.

A pirate keeps vigil in north-eastern Somalia. A campaigner says youths need an alternative. Mohamed Dahir / AFP
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DUBAI // Creating jobs and caring for orphans are areas where the UAE could help prevent another generation of young men in Somalia from taking up arms as pirates.

That is the view of Omer Jama Farah, the director and founder of the Taakulo Somali Community, who was in the UAE to attend a public-private partnership panel organised by terminal operator DP World.

Mr Farah, who met social welfare organisations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to outline proposals for cooperation, said: “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 non-government organisation provides relief in drought prone areas and works on education and health programmes in remote regions of Somalia.

“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.”

The meeting drew 54 government, non-government and industry figures from Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland and the Emirates. A sponsorship programme to pay for the education and living expenses of 5,000 orphans was among plans put forward by the Taakulo Community. Training for young people is also planned in a number of trades.

“We must try to bring them away from illegal groups or they will also turn to piracy,” said Mr Farah. “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 UAE provides support to Somalia in the form of food aid and drinking water projects. The Emirates pledged Dh183 million in May last year to enhance Somalia’s security capabilities, strengthen political cooperation and deliver humanitarian assistance.

Enabling Somalis to become self-reliant was the key suggestion that emerged from last week’s discussions. “We are particularly focused on hearing from young Somalis and encouraging them to become involved in the development of their country in a very practical way through the establishment of local businesses,” said Mohammed Sharaf, the chief executive of DP World.

The focus now is on how Somalis can help themselves, said Theodore Karasik, director of research at Inegma security consultancy. “The UAE and GCC states are contributing to developing infrastructure, humanitarian aid and education.”

Piracy became lucrative in Somalia in the 1990s. The formation of a government after the 2012 elections came with the promise of an end to civil war, insurgencies and inter-clan conflict more than 20 years after the dictator Siad Barre was removed in 1991.

Somali pirates have not successful seized a vessel for the past two years, but maritime authorities recently called for vigilance due to recurring skirmishes at sea.

In the most recent incident last month, two skiffs approached a tanker headed to Fujairah with the ship’s armed guards able to foil a likely attack.

Mohammed Osman Ahmed, the executive director of the Somaliland Counter Piracy Coordination Office, warned that “piracy is a threat and 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”.

He added: “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.”

Somaliland has arrested 89 suspected pirates since 2008, said Mr Ahmed. “We need UAE assistance to deter piracy in the Gulf of Aden. Somaliland has established a coastguard and we hope the UAE will support our counter piracy efforts.

“Attempts of piracy are still there, but successful highjacking has not happened for two years because of private armed security guards on ships and naval presence.”

The next counter piracy conference, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in partnership with DP World, will be held in Dubai in October.