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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid