News / Africa

Puntland Maneuvers for Bigger Role

Somalia, Puntland, Somaliland
Somalia, Puntland, Somaliland

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
The semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland is perhaps best known for its pirates. They’ve hijacked many ships and crewmembers demanding millions of dollars in ransom. But efforts are underway to develop Puntland and improve the quality of life for its people.


Besides being home to many Somali pirates, Puntland is also known for its smugglers. They’re often hired by Somali and Ethiopians wanting to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. Many migrants are robbed or killed in the process.

It’s a tough image to shake, but Puntland is a work in progress, according to Paul Crook, who’s chief technical advisor in Somalia for the International Labor Organization.

“We see the power of the negative. The negative image is one of piracy -- that lovely word that conjures up so much and the influence of international criminality and extremist organizations, which still are around. Al Qaeda manifests itself with al Shabab, for example.”

Al Shabab is the main militant group in Somalia. It’s been the target of a long offensive by AU, Somali and Kenyan forces. Much territory has been retaken, but the group has not been defeated.

Poverty and piracy are linked and young, unemployed men see it as a way to improve the quality of their lives and that of their families. Crook said that the international community should do more to break that link by offering alternatives.

“I think it’s very important that we support all the governments in the entire region to enable young people, particularly young men, to feel part of society in terms of employment being a major element of this,” he said.

Puntland is in northeastern Somalia. Its leaders declared it an autonomous state in 1998. The self-declared independent Somaliland lies to the west and has been lobbying for international recognition as a separate nation.

Crook said that it’s unclear whether Puntland would reunite with Somalia once peace returns.

“The opinion changes on an almost monthly basis as we see the vacillations of political processes. Clearly, the case is people see that they are part of a greater nation, if not state, and see the need for collaboration. And this is where the International Labor Organization clearly has a key role in terms of sponsorship of employment-led economic development -- because micro states will have to coalesce to take on the challenges that come with a very fragile environment and the need to create employment on a very large scale.”

Some observers have sad Puntland does indeed want to reunite with Somalia, but wants assurances it would play a major role.

One potential area for employment is oil and gas exploration, which is underway.

“That’s where the international community must come in - and our ability to work with the other international partners - to ensure that whatever the setting that the resources are used for the greater Somali people. And some people will continue to want the status quo where government is still not strong and they can exploit the situation because people can’t hold people accountable,” said Crook.

Recent oil and gas exploration, however, has had disappointing results.

The ILO technical advisor said he recently chaired a meeting in the Puntland capital Garowe of the U.N. Joint Program on Local Governance. The program, he says, supports effective management in district councils.

He added that open debate and dialogue is important for Puntland’s population.

“If you engage openly then people will respond. We just had a Facebook page running in piracy and also on women’s rights. Some of the comments were very, very good. Unfortunately, some people have seen their culture denuded by being part of the Diaspora and use some rather obnoxious language. But the sense is that everybody is able to express a view and will express a view,” he said.
Once people in Puntland agree to something, he said,  there is usually a strong commitment to deliver.

“In a sense, it’s taking us back to what we saw many years ago in terms of a handshake and a gentlemen’s agreement.”

However, desire for open debate among the people of Puntland has recently run into a government ban on three radio stations. The Ministry of Information says they lacked the proper licenses. The National Union of Somali Journalists calls the bans and other government action attacks on press freedom.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid