News / Africa

Puntland Maneuvers for Bigger Role

Somalia, Puntland, Somaliland
Somalia, Puntland, Somaliland


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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Music Brings Generations Together

When musicians over the age of 50 headline a rock concert, you expect to see baby boomer fans in the audience. Boomer rock stars have boomer fans. Millennial rock stars have millennial fans. But this isn’t always the case. Take the Lockn’ Music festival which took place in mid-September in rural Arrington, Virginia. Here, Jacquelyn de Phillips discovered two generations of people who are considered quite different in the outside world, spending 4 days together in music-loving harmony.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs