Off the coast of East Africa, the end of monsoon season means it’s the beginning of pirate season.
With 25 ships already under pirate control, there are clear signs that piracy will again thrive this year off the coasts of Somalia and Kenya. But unlike in the past, piracy is beginning to mix with politics.
Previously, pirates were primarily motivated by their personal financial interests. Now, groups like the Shabab – an increasingly powerful and violent Islamic extremist group– have begun to sponsor piracy and use the ransoms to bolster their militias and weapons caches.
In turn, Somalia’s increasingly unstable – and U.S. backed – central government has aligned itself with competing pirate groups. In the hopes of repelling the Shabab, the central government has seemingly turned a blind eye to piracy. Additionally the government has relinquished law enforcement obligations to these pirate groups, who have also compiled significant weapons stockpiles.
What action should the international community take? And what legal right does the international community have to intervene?
The United States has a significant interest in keeping the Shabab – who support al Qaeda – from gaining traction in Somalia. But can the United States, or any other country who has been victimized by piracy, continue to support a government that accepts and encourages this criminal behavior?