A research document, entitled “Treasure Mapped: Using Satellite Imagery to Track the Developmental Effects of Somali Piracy,” was published by UK-based Chattam House website, in January 2012. This report, written by Dr. Anja Shortland of Brunel University, aimed to analyze how piracy proceeds were used, between 2001-2009. While the aim of the research is academic, the content is full of contradictions, uses faulty evidence, biased research methodology, streettalk, hearsay, and was clearly prepared by a person(s) with a clear political agenda in Somalia. It is noteworthy to mention that the researcher has failed to meet her research interests, namely the “interaction between political conditions, institutions, and economic outcomes.”
Government to be held in London on 23 February 2012. The researcher’s contradictions are embarrassing by any measure. While claiming throughout the 28-page report that piracy proceeds are spent locally, the researcher goes on to say: “…a significant proportion of the proceeds is invested in foreign goods or channeled to foreign financiers.” In another example on page 4, the researcher says: “…because much of the money generated is moved aboard.”
The research is riddled with meaningless phrases, such as: “are said to be”; “alternative explanations”; “perceived to be”; “could well be linked to”; “might be”; “common assertion”; “could well be”; “potentially linked”; “relatively better off”; and many other examples.
In academic literature, it is unprofessional and indeed counter-productive to use the abovementioned words and phrases. Using such words and phrases undermines the research, exploits the researcher’s inherent academic weakness, and destroys the credibility of the research. While recognizing the researcher’s academic credentials, it is nonetheless prudent to highlight the unprofessional documentation by the researcher and the research methodology used. For example, the researcher has never visited Puntland State – nor does the researcher understand the complex history and culture of Somalia. Moreover, the researcher admits “while each of the data sources has significant weaknesses…” (Page 3). In academic protocol, it is common knowledge that the wrong data sources produce the wrong outcome. As such, the researcher’s documentation was flawed from the onset.
On page 18, the researcher argues that “mass emigration from Puntland is relatively recent.” Any student of history recognizes that there has not been any “mass emigration” from Puntland in recent years. In fact, natives returned to ancestral lands in Puntland State
following the violent collapse of the Somali central government in 1991 and the subsequent massacre of Darod clansmen in Mogadishu and other southern towns. This period marked a major demographic shift from southern to northern Somalia (i.e. Puntland), thereby leading to rapid urban growth. This natural progression over time urbanized towns and cities in Puntland and Somaliland, as the researcher recognized on page 11, stating: “Total light emission increased over time in Puntland and Somaliland. This reflects both reconstruction after the civil war and diaspora remittances supporting consumption and development.” However, the Page 2 of 3
researcher made no effort to explain the reason for similar urban growth in Somaliland, while the researcher unashamedly and ignorantly attributes urban growth in Puntland to piracy proceeds.
Urban growth in Puntland State is a result of the ingenuity, creativity, entrepreneurship, determination and vision of the people of Puntland – including Diaspora communities. For 30 years of Somali central government rule, the Puntland regions remained the most backward regions of the entire country, with no airports, roads, public institutions, hospitals and universities. However, after 1991 when Puntlanders fled southern Somalia and returned to their ancestral lands in Puntland, the region has undergone tremendous growth. This is mainly due to the peace dividends – that Puntland has enjoyed stability, which attracts investment and leads to the growth of cities. It is this stability that people have been fleeing northward to Puntland for the past 20 years. Local entrepreneurs and the Diaspora have invested in the private sector, leading to development in Puntland State.
There is a worrying trend in the researcher’s use of words. In two examples, the researcher makes unproven relationship between a “clan” and pirates: “…pirate money has contributed to the rapid growth of this town [Garowe], which is at the heart of the pirates’ clan homeland” (Page 18). This statement is prejudiced towards one particular group of Somalis; in fact, piracy can be found along the entire Somali coastline and pirates belong to practically every clan in Somalia. If we were to accept the researcher’s prejudice towards “Garowe clan” as upporters of piracy, then it is suffice to say that “Garowe clan” is the same as “Eyl clan” – and the entire world knows that Eyl is the only town in Somalia where the community (clan) successfully chased away pirate gangs. In this connection, the researcher states: “…the UN reports that the Puntland authorities concentrated their land-based counter-piracy operations in 2010 in Eyl, leading to the relocation of pirate activity towards Hobyo and Garacad” (Page 15). What a great contradiction!
It is abundantly clear that Puntland Government abides by national and international law. After establishing the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) in 2010 to fight pirates on land and along the coast, the Puntland Government pursued a notification process to the UN Security Council to attain a waiver to continue training the PMPF units and to station them along strategic coastal towns in Puntland State. As such, the researcher’s argument that “Bossaso was a pirate port in the past” and that the port is used to import “pirate equipment such as communications technology, motors and weapons” (Page 13) is intentionally deceptive and a calculated move to mislead international opinion. No weapons are imported in Bossaso or other parts of Puntland State, as this violates the UN arms embargo.
It comes as no surprise, because the researcher believes that pirates “provide local governance and stability” in Somalia and that pirates “help other entrepreneurs to trade more easily” (Page 7). Who on earth with a common sense could unashamedly state that criminals, such as pirates, produce stability and help trade in a country? The researcher is not knowledgeable about the recent piracy attacks targeting vessels heading to or leaving Puntland’s Port of Bossaso. While all pirate attacks threaten security and trade in
Puntland, specific pirate attacks targeting vessels heading to or leaving the Port of Bossaso endanger Puntland’s economic lifeline and emphasizes the Government’s strong commitment to eradicate piracy from Somali shores.
The researcher makes many surprising assertions, which underline the researcher’s ignorance on Somalia and the researcher’s inclined pro-piracy position. On a number of pages, the researcher makes erroneous links between piracy and cattle prices. Cattle exports constitute the least in all livestock exports from Puntland State. According to data from the Port of Bossaso, cattle exports in Puntland State accounted for 7% of all Page 3 of 3 livestock export in 2010 and 2011. By comparison, sheep/goat export accounted for 91% and 89.8% of all livestock exports in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Moreover, Puntland nomads do not traditionally raise cattle for consumption or export. It is a wonder that the researcher could not find out that cattle is found in the inter-riverine area between Shabelle and Jubba rivers, in southern Somalia. Therefore, it is not clear to see from the research precisely the link the researcher attempts to make between piracy and cattle exports, the link is completely out of context and thereby confuses the reader.
Moreover, the researcher makes absurd self-explanatory claims that praise pirates:
• “The result that the growth of the pirate industry has lowered the average price of imported rice might be explained by pirates providing local governance and stability.” [Page 9]
• “Pirate financiers and ex-pirates are said to be investing in local businesses and contributing to local governance.” [Page 4] Furthermore, the researcher rejects the military option, but fails to provide other recommendations, thereby indicating the researcher’s inclined position to advocate for the continuation of piracy activities along Somalia’s coastline:
• “A military crack-down on the other hand would deprive one of the world’s poorest nations of an important source of income and aggravate poverty.” [Page 20] At no point throughout a 28-page report does the researcher manage to speak of or sympathize with the suffering of innocent seafarers held hostage by pirates, nor does the researcher condemn the act of ransom payments, which is the number one fuel-factor that encourages piracy to continue. Indeed, the researcher has clear political motivations or interests, which is apparent throughout the document. But one example is suffice to demonstrate our point:
• “…this study focused on the three provinces that make up Puntland: Bari, Nugal and Muduq.” [Page 6] As a researcher, it is a pre-requisite to read and study about the current and historical developments of any particular research topic, in this case a country or region of the world.
Even if the researcher disagrees, it is vitally important to maintain a neutral voice vis-à-vis the Somali political landscape. In this relation, it would have better served the researcher to identify Puntland State’s regions as five regions of Nugal, Bari, Mudug, Sool, and Sanaag. Clearly, the researcher excludes Sool and Sanaag – the same position of the Somaliland administration, in northwestern Somalia. It is well known that Somaliland administration is troubled by Puntland State’s rising international profile – following the Puntland Government’s strong action against terrorists and pirates. Regards,
H.E. Saeed Mohamed Rage
Minister for Maritime Transport, Ports and Counter-Piracy
Puntland State of Somalia
Office: +252 90 799404 / +252 90 799128