Pirates creating instability: UN chief

Somali pirates preying on international shipping are also damaging their homeland’s battered economy, worsening the instability that opened the door to piracy and inroads by Islamist extremists, the UN chief warned.

Somali pirates preying on international shipping are also damaging their homeland’s battered economy, worsening the instability that opened the door to piracy and inroads by Islamist extremists, the UN chief warned.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his quarterly report to the UN Security Council that the surge in piracy and armed robbery against ships has severely affected trade, worsened the humanitarian crisis and further weakened Somalia’s transition government.

Inflation is “unbridled”, especially in south-central Somalia where fuel costs soared almost 170% and prices for staple foods shot up more than 250% in the 12 months through August, Mr Ban said.

He added that piracy has even hurt Somalia’s once stable semiautonomous northern region of Puntland, whose currency has lost almost 80% of its value in the past year. Much of the piracy is happening off Puntland’s coast.

The number of Somalis in need of humanitarian aid has increased 77% since January – from 1.8 million to 3.2 million, Mr Ban said.

“If local communities are not empowered with the means to earn a sustainable livelihood in the wake of growing global and local challenges, Somalia will continue to be a potential breeding ground for frustrated extremists – a challenge to its stability, that of the region and the rest of the world,” Mr Ban warned.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when clan warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The current government, formed in 2004 with the help of the UN, has failed to protect citizens from violence or the country’s poverty.

Islamist militants have waged an Iraq-style insurgency against Somali government troops and their Ethiopian allies for almost two years.

Nearly daily mortar attacks and gun battles in and around Mogadishu, the capital, have killed thousands of civilians.

Mr Ban said UN experts continue to note violations of a UN arms embargo “in an environment of general lawlessness and lack of accountability and has also noted the role of piracy and armed robbery, kidnapping and ransom payments in financing violations by armed groups”.

The Security Council is expected to approve a resolution today imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on Somalis and Somali companies and organisations that violate the arms embargo, support acts threatening peace, and impede the delivery of humanitarian aid.

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