Privatizing Somalia’s war on Piracy

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Over 2,000 Somali nationals have been recruited to fight pirates who are terrorizing the African coast under a multimillion-dollar program financed by several Arab countries, including the United Arab Emirates. The U.N. is quietly investigating whether the Somalia projects have broken the blanket embargo on arms supplies to Somali factions.

Pirates in Somali have seized ships flying under various flags, yet most governments are reluctant to send ground troops to obliterate pirate hideouts in a country where anarchy reigns and the country’s U.N.-backed administration is restricted to a few streets of the capital, Mogadishu.

There have been debates over the use of private security forces in Somalia following reports claiming that the privately run anti-piracy program would be run by a private security executive known as Erik Prince.

Prince, CEO of Blackwater Worldwide now known as Xe Services, which provided the private security forces to the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, is expected to provide forces for Somalia’s anti-piracy, anti-insurgency project.

“Prince is interested in helping Somalia overcome the scourge of piracy and has advised anti-piracy efforts. Prince has no financial role in the project,” the Associated Press quotes Xe Services Spokesman, Mark Corallo, as saying.

An intelligence report in which the United Arab Emirates was identified as a funder and Prince as a participant, revealed by The Associated Press, claims that the private forces would help fill that void of ground troops in Somalia. The trained forces will also go after a warlord linked to Al-Shabab’s Islamist insurgents.

Reports say that the Somalia project includes training a 1,000-man anti-piracy force in Somalia’s northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland and presidential guards in Mogadishu.

Even though it is unconfirmed whether Mr. Prince would be involved in the operation, director of Maritime Underwater Security Consultants John Burnett is said to have expressed that Prince’s background and illustrious reputation would help in the soon-to-be-privately funded anti-piracy war.

Saracen International was another private security company mentioned in the Somali anti-piracy project. The chief operating officer of Beirut-registered Saracen International, Lafras Luitingh said the company had sought to keep the project secret to surprise the pirates. He said his company signed a contract with the Somali government in March.

However, critics have said a privately funded anti-privacy force could weaken the international community’s effort to train and fund Somali forces to fight al-Qaida-linked Islamist insurgents.

“By introducing contractors, you could see the privatization of war, with very little accountability to the international community. Who are these private companies accountable to and what prevents them from changing clients when it’s convenient for them?” Nairobi-based analyst with the International Crisis Group think tank, E.J. Hogendoorn told reporters.

The European Union is training about 2,000 Somali soldiers with U.S. support, and an African Union force of 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers is propping up the government.

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