What will and won’t help move the focus on Somalia beyond piracy

An emphatic will: Enough’s new strategy paper, “Beyond Piracy: Next Steps to Stabilize Somalia.”

The lowest order of threat to the [Transitional Federal Government], the Somali people, the region, and the United States is actually the security item enjoying the greatest attention right now-piracy. Even so, the continued epidemic of piracy off the Somali coast is a problem and a test of the capacity of the TFG to extend its authority. Proposals to provide external assistance to the TFG for the establishment of a coast guard are premature, do not reflect the security priorities of the Somali people, and are unlikely to work. Indeed, training up coast guard officers could easily produce unintended consequences, as that new skill set will be more valuable in the piracy sector than in the public sector, producing defections from the coast guard. A more appropriate approach for the TFG will be to tackle piracy onshore. That will require time, funds, and extensive negotiations. External actors will have only limited roles to play in this internal Somali process.

Antipiracy measures would attract much greater support among Somalis if those efforts were accompanied by international action to end illegal fishing off Somalia’s coast. Like the shabaab during the Ethiopian occupation, pirates have managed to cloak their criminal agenda beneath a veil of Somali nationalism. Although illegal fishing has undoubtedly decreased due to the effectiveness of Somali pirates, international commercial fishing boats have for years violated Somalia’s territorial integrity and severely disrupted local Somali livelihoods. [emphasis mine]

Less so: a potential new blockbuster, starring Samuel L. Jackson as too-busy-to-even-watch-movies-about-himself pirate negotiator Andrew Mwangura.  Mwangura, who has been the go-to source for journos as the piracy saga has unfolded over the past year, pleads humility, but I seem to recall questions emerging last summer about just exactly what went on in his contacts with pirates.

At any rate, I’m sure that the Samuel L. Jackson flick won’t go into the nuances of how to support Somalia’s government and rule of law without upsetting the delicate balance in this fragile country.  That’s what our smart friends at Enough are for — and, while arguably less sexy, these measures will do a lot more for saving lives and restoring stability than an opportunistic Hollywood ever could.

Jackson, it’s worth mentioning, does bring some negotiating cred to the role: