Piracy is a term that stands for a general situation. In order to comprehend the general notion of piracy in the HRA*, one must look at the countries supporting it. In the sort report which follows, Iro J. Theophanides, strategic director of Unics Ltd., clearly explains the situation:
For more than a decade, the neighboring countries of Yemen and Somalia experience civil turmoil and instability. For a fact they have filled their cradle with terrorist groups and gangs.
While these two countries surround an important part of the Indian Ocean they also foster political conditions which offer a safe haven to all these sea rovers.
By examining these conditions we can state that Yemen has built exceptional international diplomatic relations, undoubtedly, supported by its armed forces. History and latest news confirm disputes between Yemen’s different tribes and the central government.
A more thorough investigation reveals the following: Interests clash – Central Government vs. Separatists (south), Shia clan (north).
Depicting Yemen’s inner difficulties is the repetitive bombing from tribesmen of its main oil pipeline, especially when crude exports finance up to 70% of Yemen’s budget. Local officials reported that the last bombing took place on the 1st of February – less than a month after it was repaired.
Most importantly Al-Qaeda holds a strong wing in Yemen. In 2009, Al-Qaeda’s division in Saudi Arabia merged with its Yemeni wing to form ‘Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’ (AQAP) – considered by Washington the most dangerous affiliate of the network. The latest incident occurred on the 16th of January when Al-Qaeda militants killed 10 Yemeni soldiers through three simultaneous attacks on army positions in the central Bayda province, according to a military official.
Whilst on the one hand Yemen has too many fronts to cover its Navy is not large enough to protect and control its coast line making it easy for pirates find support through many dispersed isolated moorages along with the Socotra Island. A recent example of piracy in Yemeni waters is that on the 10th of December 2013, where pirates attacked two ships off the coast of Yemen, according to IMB’S piracy reporting center.
Somalia remains a no man’s land. Reforming projects and international finincial aid packages provided by Western Countries prove futile. Boko Haram continues to govern the southern parts of the country. The Al -Shabaab militant group and Al-Qaeda’s network are growing stronger within the Islamic Maghreb.
Despite the African Union’s (AMISOM) mission to support the federal government of Somalia, it hasn’t yet been able to overcome Al-Shabaab.
Things become even more complicated when a part of the Somali land belongs to Ethiopia. Making Ethiopian troops unwelcomed to join again AMISOM, which could give a glimpse of hope.
Somali pirates are somewhat unstoppable and unharmed anywhere within the Somali coast. There is a great possibility that they work under or with Al-Shabaab – even though such an allegation is denied.
Yemenis and Somalis- then and now
Their history stretches back to antiquity. Trading all kinds of goods, such as, coffee beans, ivory and even slaves, the East-African commercial exchange begun in the 1st century AD forming a deeply rooted relationship making Gulf of Aden the leading foundation between the Somali coast and Yemen. Their people become competent seamen and early pirates.
Today, the existence of pirates in the Gulf of Aden is a well-known threat. Referring to all the above it should be made crystal clear that the massive coastlines of Somalia and Yemen which extend up to 4, 000 miles remain uncontrollable, thus offering safe coastal anchorage and asylum for pirates to regroup, re-organize and administrate.
*HRA=High Risk Area