Political Conflict

Stable Seas: Somali Waters

Author(s): Curtis Bell, Ben Lawellin
Date: May 1, 2017
Publication Type: Research Report
Research Topics: Political Conflict

Overview:

This report shows how complex issues like illegal fishing, coastal violence, and human trafficking intersect to create a uniquely insecure maritime environment in Somali waters. Regional conflicts have shifted human migration flows, and this has further accelerated the smuggling of both trafficked persons and arms across the Gulf of Aden. Poor fisheries management contributed to the emergence of Somali piracy. Poor governance and weak economic conditions contributed to the emergence of violent non-state actors like ISIS and al-Shabaab, and now these groups are further undermining political and economic systems. Maritime insecurity has enriched these non-state actors, further weakening governance onshore. Peace will be difficult to achieve without better maritime security, and maritime security will continue to be evasive as long as the region remains so unstable.

Key Findings:

  • The strategic location of the Somali region and its poor governance capacity makes it a central hub in several illicit transnational networks with connections across much of the Western Indian Ocean.
  • Criminal networks are adaptive, seeking new ways to profit from poor maritime governance.
  • Maritime security, free from all forms of criminal profiteering, can only be obtained through building the capacity to manage and patrol Somali waters over the long term.
  • Undermining criminal networks and addressing their root causes requires an all-inclusive approach that issue-specific methods are unlikely to resolve.

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