"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

11.16.2009

what would end piracy?

The BBC's Africa Have Your Say program recently hosted a discussion on the following topic:
Piracy off the coast of Somalia cost $30m in ransoms last year and at least seven vessels and about 179 crew members remain in pirate hands. But has the international response been tough enough?

The high-seas hijackings continue despite an international armada of 40 warships using modern technology such as laser rays capable of dazzling attacking pirates up to a kilometre away.

Yet piracy persists, with 130 attempted hijackings in the first six months of 2009.

Does the world need to take a much tougher stance to stop the pirates? Should countries and owners of captured vessels stop paying ransoms? What would you do to stop the Somali pirates? Are there vested interests standing in the way of permanent solutions?
You can check out responses to this question from people all over the continent here.

I'd argue that the reason the response to the pirates has largely been effective is that piracy isn't really the problem here. Young Somali men only become pirates because they don't have other employment options. Why don't they have other options? Because basic security is not guaranteed, nobody's going to start a serious business there. And why isn't basic security guaranteed? Because the state is non-functional.

Treating symptoms like freely operating organized crime won't cure the disease of state failure. Tightening security may make piracy more difficult for its perpetrators. The refusal to pay ransoms isn't a realistic option; those ships and their cargo are worth millions, and the pirates (and the shipping companies and the K&R insurance industry) all know it. And so it goes.

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