This is my first blog post in the category “Headline-Check” in which I am going to try to analyze foreign affairs reporting in the media. I am looking forward to your comments, ideas and (hopefully not too many) corrections.
Throughout Sunday, I have followed the news of a wave of suicide attacks in Somalia´s capital Mogadishu – two of them hitting a court complex. At least 29 people died in the attacks. The deadly attacks were covered by nearly all international media outlets ranging from the UK´s “Telgraph” to Germany´s “SPIEGEL ONLINE“.
Unfortunately reading the articles did not help me to understand what is really happening in Somalia. They did not explain why these attacks on a court complex in Mogadishu are connected to piracy, and why they could have long-term repercussions – even in the western world.
Two weeks ago, I researched the current political situation in Somalia for my geopolitics course at “Sciences Po Paris”. In order to understand yesterday´s attacks we should first take a look at Somalia itself.
Somalia does not exist.
What we understand as Somalia, is in fact a compilation of several regions – operating more or less independently. In the north, far away from Mogadishu, “Somaliland” and “Puntland” have erected their own political systems.
Puntland is where Somalia´s pirates are operating from. But it is also one of the bases of Al-Qaeda´s “Al-Shabaab” group. “Al Shabaab” is the terrorist group responsible for yesterday´s attacks on Mogadishu.
So why did Al-Shabaab attack a court complex?
In fact, Al-Shabaab and Somalia pirates threatening cargo ships at the Horn of Africa, profit from each other. Both need instability and a failed state to thrive – in Puntland they have found a paradise. Regional authorities are basically helpless in the fight against piracy.
But in recent years and after the drastic increase in attacks on cargo ships, western states have both fought with their navy troups and their money against the attacks. In 2008, the EU started its “Atalanta” mission – patrouling the Horn of Africa and securing western cargo transports (the Strait of Malacca is the fastest sea connection between Europe and Asia). But while public attention was focused on military efforts, the more important part was on land.
“The fight against piracy has to start on land.”
This New York Times-headline summarizes recent efforts of western countries to provide the government in Mogadishu with the means to fight piracy on its own. On top of the to-do-list: to build up a stable judiciary in the country.
And here we start to understand, why yesterday´s terrorist attacks on Mogadishu´s court complex are so important for the future of the country, the development of piracy on the Horn of Africa (which has surprisingly declined recently, possibly due to patrouls and investments) – and western trade with Asia. If Somalian authorities are unable to secure their courts and the rule of law, instability will resume. Hence, the attacks in Mogadishu were not only attacks on a court complex – but also aimed against western efforts to start the fight against piracy on land.
Unfortunately none of the articles I read today explained these contexts.
I think we need more background-information in foreign affairs reporting. What´s your take on this issue? I am looking forward to your comments!