Somalia's new government says it would be able to deal decisively with the piracy problems off its shores if the international community would provide logistical support and supervision to its navy. This comes after Somali pirates defied international naval powers and are holding hostage the capital of an American ship on a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean. The pirates tried to hijack U.S ship Maersk Alabama Wednesday, but Captain Phillips thwarted the takeover by offering himself as a hostage.
Abdulrahman Haji Ibbi is the Somali minister for Fisheries. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that if such support had been forthcoming, the pirates would not have posed the problems they now causing off the Somali coast.
"This problem of the piracy in Somali sea waters is a problem and a very difficult thing for everybody. But for us it is not a difficult thing because we as Somalis have to show our experience of how we can handle and tackle these kinds of problems. But we are deeply sorry and it is regrettable all these expenses that the international community is spending towards addressing this piracy issue sending all their naval vessels to Somali sea waters without doing anything at all," Haji Ibbi said.
He said several requests by the Somali government to help solve the piracy problem have fallen on deaf ears.
"What they could have done, which we have told them many times is that the Somali new government wants to solve once and for all the problem of the piracy of the Somali seawaters. That the international community could help us in a very simple manner giving us the kind of support that our Somali coast guards will like to actually tackle all these problems and we will do it. We use to do it and we have been doing it during the Islamic Courts of Union we knew each other and the problem is not the water. The problem is land so and we don't want the problems happening now to continue," he said.
Haji Ibbi said the international community has been reluctant to help with the new government's effort to resolve the piracy menace.
"We have presented requests to all of them, all of them. There is not a single member of the international community that my president or prime minister has not mentioned this problem to. They mention the problem of piracy to all the people of foreign governments that they have met since the new government was formed and none has actually given us the kind of response that we have expected from them. We are not actually complaining, but what we are saying is to help the community to help the people and we are saying please help us because we can actually do this job in a very secure manner. And they know very well that we can do it," Haji Ibbi noted.
He said the lack of funds and logistics has made the Somali coast guard ineffective in preventing the pirates from operating.
"What kind of coast guard are we going to use to fight these pirates when we don't have money to pay them? We as a government don't have that kind of money or economical support which we can use to give to our soldiers to go and get these pirates and everybody knows that. We are not actually getting revenue from anywhere except the ports but we are still not getting the type of funds that we are looking for. Don't forget the government is only one month and a couple of days and as government we never inherited any economical infrastructure. For this country there is no revenue there is no central bank and the money that we are getting is that small thing from goods and services revenue from the port. In a whole month we get only 45 to 50 thousand dollars," he said.
Haji Ibbi said the government could easily deal with the pirates once it receives logistical and financial support.
"Definitely we can do that and I can guarantee that we can deal with it as soon as possible. We know these people and we know how to tackle them and how to solve the problem. We know where these pirates are coming from, where they are going and we know their tactics. Everybody know their own people and we keep asking the international community, the United Nations and particularly the United States of America which we believe have very good facilities for that and the European Union to actually help us. I mean these are very simple things we can get to help the world get rid of these pirates," Haji Ibbi noted.
Meanwhile, the capture of Captain Philip has once again focused world attention on Somali piracy, as happened last year when gunmen seized a Saudi supertanker with $100 million of oil on board, and a Ukrainian ship with 33 tanks.
The United Nations World Food Program says escalating attacks by Somali pirates are increasingly making it harder to deliver food and relief aid to the hungry in some parts of Africa. The organization said escalating attacks are raising insurance costs and making shippers wary of going there, saying it now costs hundreds of millions of dollars more to feed the same number of people because of the problems associated with shipping food and high food prices.
The Kenyan port city of Mombasa, south of the Somalia coast, is a vital hub for receiving food assistance for Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Somalia and Kenya.
Meanwhile, Washington has brought in FBI hostage negotiators to work with the military in trying to secure the release of Capt. Richard Phillips of Underhill Vermont with officials saying the bandits were in talks with the Navy about resolving the standoff peacefully.
The head of the US Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus, said more ships would be sent to the area to ensure that there is capability that might be needed over the course of the coming days. Washington says it was seeking a peaceful solution, but was not ruling out any option in freeing Phillips.
Some political observers believe the additional ships are a show of force in response to a rise in the number of attacks and the first one on a U.S.-flagged ship. The move is expected to give the U.S. military more eyes on the threatened area to act as a deterrent to future pirates attacks.
President Barack Obama is reportedly being kept abreast with ongoing developments in the negotiations between the military and the pirates who are still holding Captain Philips hostage.