(UGANDA) eTN – US Vice Admiral Mark Fox was quoted last week in an AFP news services release that “only counter terrorism measures” could deal with the Somali pirate menace, as they operate with increased impunity along the entire Eastern African shorelines from the Horn of Africa all the way down to Madagascar and near the Mozambique borders with Tanzania, leave alone their radius of operations in the deep Indian Ocean. This correspondent has in the past regularly drawn criticism over the use of the phrase ‘ocean terrorist’, a description however entirely befitting to the criminals, and the call for counter terrorism reaction is now finally proof enough that officials too are thinking at last along these lines.
The way terrorists are being dealt with on land simply has to be extended to naval operations against the pirates and all naval forces, not just those of the Seychelles, Malaysia and South Korea, need a robust mandate from their governments to decisively deal with the menace and instil the fear of God in the Somalis. They need to be knowing full well that once they leave their shores with the intention to commit piracy, the moment they look like pirates and act like pirates on so called ‘motherships’ and skiffs on the deep Indian Ocean, that they will be decisively engaged BEFORE they can reach their targets to prevent more hijackings of ships and in particular remove any future threat of passenger cruise ships being attacked or in a worst case scenario captured for ransom.
Members of the naval coalition with second thoughts, or ‘soft’ rules of engagement, need to review their options and commitment, as frankly only those WITH robust rules of engagement have a place amongst members of the naval coalition. Countries which do not wish to act decisively against the ocean terrorists, for fear of public opinion at home or other reasons, should leave the scene and make way for those who do.
Other measures like tracking the flow of funds and supplies too needs to be aggressively enforced to prevent the pirates from moving their ill gotten gains around and obtaining fresh supplies and goods and to more closely examine alleged links between the pirates and the Islamic militants operating in parts of Somalia. If the ‘problem from hell’ is ever going to be brought under control, in the interest of the East African and Indian Ocean countries and the rest of the world, now is the time to act and to act with renewed vigor.