NEWS

On Land and Off Coast, Somalia Continues to Crumble

By Matthew Harwood

Somalia's government and security services have continued an alarming slide into anarchy inland as pirates continue to plunder international vessels off its coast.

The Somalia security sector has experienced mass desertions, according to a UN Security Council report released yesterday, which has increased the amount of arms available to militants. Somalia's weak interim government, known as the Transitional Federal Assembly, continues to face militant opposition from the Islamist al-Shabaab militia and other insurgent groups.

As reported by Reuters, "There has been 'an 80 percent erosion and attrition in the (interim government's) security sector, by which over 15,000 soldiers and police had deserted or defected along with their arms, uniforms, skills and vehicles in some cases,' South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo told the council."

The desertion of Somalia's security forces has occurred as the country has descended into kleptocracy. Seventy percent of the government's budget is allocated for security spending, but most of the money is never properly spent because of corruption.

The council's report, prepared by its Monitoring Group on Somalia, also says the government has continued a "steady disintegration" since its last report in May.

As the report detailing Somalia's anarchy was released, the United States began campaigning for a draft resolution that would allow countries to take the battle to the country's pirates on land, including air attacks.

The Guardian reports:

A draft resolution that would permit states fighting piracy to "take all necessary measures ashore in Somalia, including in its airspace" has been circulated to members of the UN security council. Prior consent for raids would be required from Somalia's fractured government.

The resolution, to be discussed at a security council meeting on Tuesday, highlights concerns that naval patrols alone will not deter gangs from terrorising the busy shipping route. Two Yemeni fishing boats were reported yesterday to have been hijacked, adding to the dozen captured off Somalia since October 24, when Nato sent four warships to the region.

The Guardian further reports that towns and villages in the country's north-east have given safe haven to various pirate gangs, including the one that holds the Sirius Star, the Saudi supertanker holding $100 million worth of crude oil. According to commentators, that attack was the most audacious yet by pirates, considering the size of the vessel as well as its distance from shore.

Reuters, however, reports its sources say the U.S.'s draft resolution confers too many broad powers and predicted it will not pass the Security Council in its current form.

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