The real pirates in Somalia are in Washington, Paris and Oslo

Published on Pambauka News, by Abdulkadir Salad Elmi, Sept. 16, 2010.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon proposed a new international anti-piracy plan in August, but with rich countries after the oil and fish reserves of Somalia’s internationally recognised waters, Abdulkadir Salad Elmi wants to know who the real pirates are.

Many people seem not to understand, or refuse to understand, that more than half of Somalia consists of the seas around the country. This makes the oceans vital to the survival of the Somali people … //


While the AU (African Union) and states like Indonesia and Germany respect the Somali Law of the Sea and the Somali EEZ, countries like Spain or Italy only respect this legal regime indirectly by having told their state-flagged vessels to stay out of the 200nm area, while Spanish- or Italian-owned vessels fly flags of convenience and like many others, continue poaching fish in Somali waters.

But even states like France, who tried at first to maintain the line that since the UNCLOS-EEZ maps were not shown on the UNCLOS website and therefore Somalia should not have an EEZ, have by a declaration of their president Nicolas Sarkozy – given during a meeting in Libya – officially stated that now France will also respect the 200nm zone of Somalia. The fact that the European Union (the conglomerate of old-world countries) shares its economic zones does not affect Somalia, but was interestingly the reason why Norway itself did not enter the EU as a member.

But what Norway (and other players like the EU and IMO – International Maritime Organisation) try to manifest with the ‘re-establishment’ of the Somali EEZ and their unwarranted ‘help’ is not only to follow the line set by the USA, which would force the Somalis to abolish the Somali Law on the Sea and its 200nm territorial waters, but also that all the cases involving violations of Somali law which have been documented over the last 20 years should be brushed under the carpet and forgotten. All the cases over the last 20 years – during which Somalia could hardly defend its rights – would be thrown out because it would be argued that this newly done ‘formal establishment of an EEZ’ would mean that there had been no EEZ before, which is simply not true.

Many were present in Mogadishu in the years before 1991 and are still living as key witnesses to events, when delegation after delegation from other countries tried to coerce or convince the Siad Barre government to do away with the Somali Law on the Sea and its 200nm provisions because they wanted unhindered access to Somali waters and resources.

Laws of states like Somalia and Peru led the international community to realise that it would be a good idea to have marine waters governed by the coastal states to which they belonged. This gave rise to the legal provisions found today in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the basic idea of creating a 200nm EEZ for all coastal states, and to make provisions for those who had yet to declare a 200nm zone. To turn this around now and go against one of the founder nations must be seen as an outrageous act of aggression.

Today, after 20 years of civil war, and while the Somali government and the Somali population, which never in Somali history has been so weak and vulnerable, outside forces believe they have an ideal moment to press for the twisting of legal history solely for their own interests.

Let us not forget that the only interest the Norwegian state machinery has in Somalia are the potential oil reserves and fish resources. This is especially so with offshore oil concessions, where they believe they can gain an advantage over the French, who already have secret contracts concerning offshore drilling in Somali waters. That the Norwegians actually did help to beat the deadline of 13 May 2009, which the International Seabed Authority had set for the declaration of interests in the CSZ, should not lead to a situation where Somalis can be blindfolded into giving up other rights.

Though with the new 350nm continental shelf regulations further Somali rights have been manifested, this should not lead to a situation where an expansion of certain limited rights is traded in for a weakening of core-rights in the rear. That especially the USA is not happy with states, which based on international and national law can refute the US Navy from sailing right up to the shores of a sovereign state, is clear and was recently manifested by a near-deadly stand-off between China and the USA in the South China Sea.

Likewise, Indonesia’s UN delegate stated at the UN that the south-east Asian nation had joined Security Council efforts to address piracy incidents off the Somali coast by adopting UN resolutions 1816, 1836 and 1846. But the delegate stressed that while the resolutions tackled piracy, they must not affect the rights, obligations or responsibility of states under international law, which first and foremost was to respect the sovereignty of a nation in the first place.

Somalia has a 200nm zone of territorial waters, like the recognised nation states of Benin, Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Liberia and Peru. In Peru these provisions are even enshrined in the constitution.

Such maritime dominion and the right to exercise sovereignty and jurisdiction should not be given up by Somalia, especially also because the 1952 Santiago Declaration in its preamble affirms that ‘governments are bound to ensure for their peoples the access to necessary food supplies and to furnish them with the means of developing their economy’. The declaration also affirms how the economic zone should extend not less than 200nm from the coast.

The 1970 Declaration of the Latin American States on the Law of the Sea further added that the decision to extend the jurisdiction beyond the former territorial sea limits was a consequence of ‘the dangers and damage resulting from indiscriminate and abusive practices in the extraction of marine resources’ as well as the ‘utilisation of the marine environment’ giving rise to ‘grave dangers of contamination of the waters and disturbance of the ecological balance’.

The natural resources of Somalia’s seas are the only sound assets left for a prosperous future of the Somali people, which is why even the AU during the 1990s and at the Maputo and Cape Town conferences on the coastal development of Africa clearly urged the world to respect the Somali EEZ. Anybody who says that Somalia has no EEZ is giving a slap in the face to the Somali people, but also to all nations of the AU.

Let us beware of Norwegian wolves or their Somali ‘counterpart’ Warabe appearing in the skin of an Ido and pretending to be a friend. Let us stand and stay strong in defending the sovereignty of Somalia as a whole, including its waters and natural resources.

That we might have to go through a phase of sorting out internal issues by strengthening regional and local government in order to regain our former unity are issues of our own internal affairs and do not affect the internationally relevant legal provisions. Somalia’s problems must not give reason to disrespect our commons or weaken our common defence against any outside aggressor.

Even when we are down on our knees and have to sometimes beg for help, the so-called international community has to first and foremost respect Somalia’s sovereignty and laws before they can be accepted as friends. Gifts in the form of Trojan horses must be rejected and those colluding with such scams must be seen for what they are: traitors and enemies of the Somali people. (full long text).

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