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Rebuilding somalia is the real answer

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Gulf News
Published: November 20, 2008, 23:35
Piracy off the coast of Somalia is finally attracting the interest of the international community. The Arab states bordering the Red Sea met yesterday in Cairo to define a plan of action they can adopt. Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who described piracy yesterday as a "very serious challenge", called for more international action, although he ruled out a land offensive against the pirate bases. American, French, British and Indian naval forces are already active in the region.

Clearly, the short-term solution is for a coordinated international naval force to protect shipping off the Horn of Africa. It should include forces from the major international powers whose ships are being hijacked, as well as from countries from the region who have to bear some responsibility for taking control of their regional problems.

This force would make piracy a lot more difficult and less attractive than it is at present. It could organise convoys, which are more easily protected than individual ships scattered all over the sea. It could put commandos onboard ships so that when small boats appear over the horizon, soldiers are ready to blow them out of the water.

However, the main problem is that the world has ignored the disaster that Somalia has become. The years of terrible civil war have split the state into many small factions, run by warlords and terrorised by their militias. There is no central state, there are no national institutions and commerce has collapsed. The real answer to piracy is to rebuild Somalia, offer the people stability and security, and let them restart their normal lives. That will not be done by the Nato convoys off their coast. It will be done by a determined regional commitment, backed by the United Nations.