Browsing articles from "July, 2012"
Jul 30, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Turning the Page on Piracy in Eyl

The Eyl town of Daawad

Tucked within a rocky valley on the eastern shore of Somalia, approximately 220 kilometers from Puntland’s capitol, Garowe, the sister towns of Bedey and Daawad — together part of Eyl District — are two of the more underdeveloped areas in Puntland State. The coastal community of roughly 200 households has experienced little economic growth over the past two decades, having endured the consequences of remote and rugged geography, poor infrastructure, limited access to education, and instability caused by the local piracy movement that not only drained the town of a large number of young men, but scuttled its reputation among the international community.

The Eyl District Council, which governs Bedey and Daawad as well as the surrounding district of 100,000 people, has taken steps to address some of these challenges in recent years. Council members have solicited international support to modernize the unpaved road leading from Eyl to other population centers to the west and north. Construction will begin in the next few months. The current single-lane road — a mix of dirt, sand, and rock — compounds Eyl’s relative isolation by dramatically increasing travel time and limiting opportunities for trade and commerce. The fishing industry, Eyl’s largest source of livelihood, is particularly dependent upon reliable and expedient access to outside markets, without which opportunities for sector growth are slim. International trade to Gulf countries via the Indian Ocean is often the most viable alternative market for Eyl fishermen, although rough water conditions and the threat of off-shore piracy have made this route hazardous as well — not only due to armed criminals, but also anti-piracy vessels that may mistake innocent fishermen for Somalis with more nefarious intentions.

Yet the impact of the piracy movement extends well beyond the fishing sector. Starting over a decade ago, outside actors offering financial reward for criminal behavior — in the form of seizing boats and taking hostages — attracted many young Eyl men away from productive trades and toward dangerous and unstable lifestyles. Some were subsequently killed, leaving behind families with few means of financial support. Others were imprisoned. Many incurred large debts with local businesses around town, using piracy as both leverage and collateral, then often defaulting due to imprisonment, death, or simple bad luck on the open seas. These businesses suffered financial hardship as a result.

Piracy has a complicated history in Somalia. What began as a homegrown movement to protect off-shore resources (particularly fish populations within Somalia’s territorial waters) from excessive exploitation by other countries and international corporations, metastasized into a lucrative criminal enterprise that shirked its founding purpose for expedient economic gain. Pirates quickly discovered that they could collect large sums of money for their trade. The movement thus became less about economic justice and more about simple financial benefit, with many young Somalis preferring the high-risk, high-reward lifestyle to the stagnant grind of daily life in Eyl.

In recent years, however, piracy has waned in both influence and its level of community support. The Puntland government, with international backing, successfully engaged the Eyl community in an anti-piracy campaign designed to wield the influence of religious leaders, elders, businesses, and families to provide a united front against the piracy movement. Traditional and religious leaders used their moral authority to convince businesses to reject money of pirate origin, whether from the individual pirate himself or his family. And these families, under the strain of financial blacklists and weary of the violence and instability wrought by piracy, began to withdraw their support for the movement as well. Slowly, as the town became increasingly inhospitable to this form of criminal enterprise, pirates and their leaders began moving their operations elsewhere.

Small fishing boats along the beach in Bedey

Today, despite these mild successes, Eyl continues to stand in a vulnerable position. Although piracy has decreased through the community’s coordinated campaign, the region has not yet seen a corresponding rise in economic growth or opportunity. Fishermen lack the resources to construct durable boats to withstand the rough seas, and the community does not have sufficient refrigeration capacity to preserve the fish for shipment along the long route inland toward Garowe and other population centers. The town continues to need modernized infrastructure, primarily in the form of a permanent and paved road to facilitate a more cost-effective commute to and from the town. Farmers require metal wire to fence in land for a more productive use of livestock. Female small-shop owners, eager to expand their enterprises but lacking the wherewithal to do so, are in need of additional capital and business training. And youth, often with limited education and few employment opportunities, require enterprise skill training to improve their economic prospects and stimulate a broader entrepreneurial spirit. With few resources and little support from either the Puntland government or the Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, the district government does not have the capacity to address these issues on its own.

All of these factors, when considered together, demand an increased level of engagement by development organizations to avoid a situation where piracy and organized criminal groups once again take root, exploiting and preying upon an economically vulnerable and geographically isolated community. Road construction is a good start, but needs to be accompanied by investment in the fishing sector to improve capacity for trade and build economic relationships with towns inland from the coast. Without creating expanded markets for Eyl products, it is difficult to envision sustainable growth. These goods, for example, could be connected to new commercial markets that are being developed in Garowe and neighboring towns, which would create new opportunities for profit within the supply chain to go along with added consumer demand.

Although Puntland is undergoing a democratic transition, sometimes the biggest challenges remain the most basic: creating sustainable livelihoods, and buffering insecure communities against organized crime and those who prey upon societies with weak governance. Long-term, Eyl’s economic prospects might rely somewhat upon the Puntland government’s ability to develop better policies for resource-sharing and inclusive political representation. But one hopes that Eyl might be able to find some solutions in the short-term as well, for a higher order of living and a further reduction in a pirate movement that continues to harm both Somalis and the international community.

Jul 28, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Working with crime in Mozambique

For those who became curious about crime and crime prevention in Mozambique after our last discussion, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa released their report on the subject this past week and it is available here.

I will write more about it soon, but in the meantime, I’d like to highlight some of its content:

One thing that I found useful was their assessment of the drivers of crime in Mozambique. In line with popular theories linking it to skewed patterns of development and poverty, OSISA points to inequality as a main cause for crime, along with urbanization, corruption, organized crime, centralization, lack of opportunities for youth, victimization of women and children, high numbers of street dwellers, culture of violence, weak criminal justice system, prevalence of HIV/AIDS, rise in vigilantism, damaging customary practices and local beliefs, and trafficking along the coastlines and land corridors. “While none of these factors in isolation cause crime and violence” says OSISA, “all contribute to the challenges faced by Mozambique”.

They also have a section analyzing the main challenges to tackling the problem, which are, in their opinion: 1) Lack of opportunities for youth, 2) Marginalized role of local government, 3) Lack of engagement of the private sector, 4) Limited research and knowledge sharing on crime and violence prevention, 5) Absence of debate on security sector reform, 6) Parenting and early childhood development not prioritized, 7) Religious sector not fully engaged, 8 ) Poor support for displaced people, and 9) Disconnect between national policies and programs and local realities.

Of those, the lack of engagement of the private sector and disconnect between national policies and programs and local realities seem particularly bothersome to me, since they are provoked by ignorance and careless behavior more than by contextual reasons. They also mean there is a waste of effort and resources in the area.

There is also an “absence of support for unemployed and out-of-school youth”, found to be main drivers of crime, in comparison with women and children. While attention to female and children victimization is important, the report suggests that the concentration of funds and efforts in these two groups has been marginalizing the much needed attention to the latter two.

In the next opportunity, I’ll address their findings on promising programs and recommendations. Stay tuned.


Jul 24, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Shots in Maputo

It doesn't look dangerous, does it?

This past week I had a coffee with some other expats and interns living in Maputo, including one Brazilian reporter who had just arrived in Mozambique. I spent a few minutes talking to her about what I like about the city and some common sense safety precautions, such as not walking alone after dark. In general, I said, I felt pretty happy and safe here. About 40 minutes after that speech, the table the expats were at was shot at by robbers armed with AK-47s.

I had left about half an hour before the shooting happened. None of my friends got seriously hurt, but two security guards at the restaurant were shot at close range and last I heard were still in critical condition at the hospital. The perpetrators robbed the place and some of its clients in between random bouts of shooting at tables. Everyone I knew basically ran for their lives and either hid in a nearby garden or in streets of the affluent neighborhood where we were. A couple girls twisted their ankles; another bruised a knee and a hand during a fall. There were all pretty shaken. The police got there too late.

The State Department classifies Mozambique’s crime rate as “critical”, the highest possible category. I would say Maputo’s crime rate is not higher than cities like Sao Paulo or even large American cities, but there is a general feeling that violence is increasing. One popular theory links the perceived rise to the patterns of development the country has experienced in recent years: a lot of foreign investment and high growth rates that generate a wealth concentrated in the hands of a few which leaves the vast majority even poorer as it pushes the cost of living up. And even though the IMF congratulates Mozambique for keeping the inflation under control, it is getting undeniably more and more expensive to live here. An American friend, for example, rents a nice, but by no means luxurious, one bedroom apartment for US$ 2,700 a month (way, way more than a regular Mozambican would dream of being able to pay). It’s the old story – giant foreign projects arrive, they bring their money and their workers, demand for services and infrastructure is unmet and prices escalate.

It has been said that historically the factors that contribute to crime rates in Mozambique are related to the legacy of the civil war and the reconstruction efforts after its end in 1992. A couple such factors are 1) the level of violence that communities were exposed to during the war, which make the occurrences seem less extraordinary; 2) the difficulties in reintegrating former combatants; 3) the huge number of firearms that are still available in the country; 4) the destruction and poverty that has resulted from the conflict; 5) the absence of a tradition of legally punitive boundaries; and others. As I have said numerous times, the country is almost at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index. The unemployment rate is high and formal employment is not more than a third of the total occupied labor force. I am far from explaining violence and crime in Mozambique –those are way too complicated and involve too many factors for one with a brief experience or research to speak about with any propriety. Nevertheless, it is possible to say that these are some elements that can help contextualize violence and crime here.

Along the same lines, and according to a paper by the think tank Idasa, based in Pretoria, “a study prepared for the WHO and the WHO Small Arms Survey reveals a prevailing perception that unemployment and poverty are the key determinants driving Mozambican crime”. One particularly vulnerable group is the youth, which experiences an unemployment rate estimated at being over 70%. “This has resulted in theft, prostitution, smuggling, and violent crime becoming necessary features of self-preservation among them”, continues the same paper.

It is also worth noticing the spike and prevalence of organized criminal syndicates in Mozambique, facilitated partly by the fact that “the country’s long coastline creates logistical problems for border control, especially when there is a lack of trained personnel. (…) Organized crime has reached such an extent in Mozambique that it can almost be viewed as a ‘parallel power base’ challenging the authority of the state. (…) Also, because drug trafficking and money laundering have become so pervasive, it is likely that illegal drug sales represent a substantial portion of Mozambique’s economy. In fact, drug sales may have been a strong contributor to the growth in the country’s economy since the end of the civil war in 1992 (Gastrow and Mosse, 2002)”.

And let’s not forget the problems with the police force and the culture of corruption that abounds state institutions.

There are several national and international programs trying to deal with the situation in Mozambique. I recently came across one that is in place right now, created by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. In fact, the first of their initiatives, an assessment of crime and violence in the country, is due to be published today. Other components include: a) working with the Mozambican Ministry of Justice, which is formulating its crime combating policy, in order to try to shift the focus from fighting crime after it was committed to crime prevention; b) community safety audits and plans; and c) crime prevention courses, developed in partnership with the local public university Eduardo Mondlane.

More on this program to be discussed soon. Hopefully, without the threat of AK-47 bullets flying over the heads of my friends.





Jul 24, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

Puntland’s Democratic Transition: The Legacy of Clan Politics

Puntland, an autonomous state situated directly on the Horn of Africa in northeast Somalia, today finds itself in a unique position. Less than three weeks ago, Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole signed into law a political party act that formally, and finally, established the system envisioned by Puntland’s 3-year old constitution — multi-party, electoral democracy. The law was the first step in a series that will culminate in elections next year. First, for district councils within Puntland’s eight regions. Then, for state-wide parliament. These polls will be the first of their kind in nearly 50 years.

Taking after its neighbor to the west, Somaliland — which instituted a similar multi-party system years ago and has since held two relatively successful elections in 2005 and 2010 — Puntland appears poised to outpace the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu on the path toward democratic reform.

At least, on paper. While Puntlanders are excited about the opportunities presented by this historic transition, the new political system is being dropped into a society with no memory of electoral participation, dramatic disparities in wealth (often between those with experience living abroad, and those without), a non-industrialized, largely pastoral economy, and most importantly, deeply set and respected traditions of clan politics. These clan lineages extend back for hundreds of years. Traditional leaders, empowered by clan communities to negotiate on their behalf and reconcile inter-clan disputes, act to preserve the security and welfare of their particular lineage. Although Puntlanders all belong to the same meso-level clan, the Harti, the network divides into a seemingly endless number of sub-clans that may be as big or as small as an individual’s personal sense of identity. Some align with large communities. Others, perhaps, only with a few families. For many, the terrible security situation throughout Somalia since the late 1980s has only made clan loyalty more paramount, since the primary responsibility of any traditional leader is first and foremost to provide for the physical security of the clan community.

Fortunately, Puntland has been spared much of the worst violence seen throughout parts of South-Central Somalia. But the relative stability in the northeast corner of the country has in no way diminished clan influence. Since the establishment of Puntland State in 1998, traditional leaders have played a large role — perhaps even the primary role — in appointing members of parliament. Those undemocratically selected members, 66 in all, then choose a president to lead the executive branch, who fills out his cabinet only with parliamentary approval. All of this power derives from one source: traditional leaders. Although these men likely solicit some input from their home communities as well, per the longheld Somali culture of consultation.

Apart from their primary purpose of security and welfare, all clans value prestige, which can be accrued through a number of sources: political representation, economic success, and even sheer population. All of these factors make identity a powerful determinant of political choices and government behavior, particularly in a society where half of the population lives on less than $1 a day and generally fills their basic needs through informal networks cultivated through these basic identities.

But the consequences of clan and identity politics extend beyond immediate resource distribution and government disposition. In the course of securing and expanding the welfare of their communities, traditional leaders participate in judicial tracks that run parallel to, and often supersede, the state. These may include relatively benign cases of reconciliation, where a minor crime by a member of one clan against another is expunged and forgiven as part of a compensatory agreement by both clan leaders. However, they may also — and often do — include more questionable forms of dispute resolution. Gender-based violence, for example, often goes unpunished because traditional leaders assign a monetary value to the crime and give that sum to the victim’s family, with the family’s clan claiming a healthy commission as well. And even if a rape victim chooses to pursue criminal action through the government, once her family or clan has settled the dispute informally, the state will drop the case and release the alleged perpetrator.

All of this has a rather perverse effect on the administration of true justice. Clans prioritize stability and security over other considerations, and these choices can manifest in, among other things, a distorted political and judicial system. Of course, Puntland’s constitution and political party law have laid out a new framework for political participation and democratic governance, which many hope will set a new course away from clan influence and toward issue-based politics. Yet the important question, it seems, is not whether the system institutes elections, universal suffrage, and reconfigured government processes — but rather, how will previously entrenched interests and traditional actors respond to the new rules, and how does the system’s design propose to mitigate a few foreseeable scenarios: monopolization of power by larger clans, subjugation of smaller clans, electoral violence and manipulation, boycotts and a lack of investment in the new system, and the use of elected office and state resources to serve provincial rather than national interests.

I’ll try to address some of these issues in an upcoming post. The Transitional Electoral Commission has submitted prospective electoral laws to parliament, and a final version should be passed and submitted to the president for his signature in the next couple weeks. Once the system is signed into law, political associations will be allowed to begin the registration process for a place on the 2013 ballot. The design of these initial laws will inevitably influence the shape and character of Puntland politics for quite some time. Stay tuned…

Jul 22, 2012
Center for Democracy and Civil Society

The next Maputo

In in association with the Portuguese, Mozambicans are planning a new city in the outskirts of Maputo that should house up to 400,000 people in 2040. I was told this today by a demographer that is currently in Maputo doing research for the project. At first the idea sounded farfetched, but I reconsidered when I learned that in three decades the population of Mozambique is expected to nearly double, reaching 45 million people. During that time, there will be 3 billion more people in this planet, the majority of which will be borne in the African continent.

Demographic and migratory trends inside Mozambique have been causing alarm for a while now.  The nation is already dealing with problems caused by the flows of people that come south in search of (very few) jobs and opportunities in the capital. When I was in Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique, I heard countless times that development slowed down and everyone just left for Maputo (I am not sure which came first). Population growth rate is still high: women have on average 4 or 5 children in larger cities and 6 in rural areas.

It is clear that Mozambique does not currently possess the infrastructure, the services or the economy necessary to create good living standards for the population that it will host. It barely does now – social indicators are terrible, and the country has the fourth lowest rank in the UNDP human development index. Literacy rate, for example, is around 52%; unemployment is about 27%, with only 32% of jobs found in the formal market.

In 1999, the government published the National Population Policy (PNP), a plan that was supposed to help the country reach an economically sustainable growth rate. It clearly has not worked out so far, and there is a lot of pressure for a review of the plan. According to Antonio Francisco, a researcher from IESE (Institute of Social and Economic Studies), a think tank based in Maputo, there are three basic ways in which Mozambican politicians failed in their attempts to address the issue. The first is that they “convey an exaggerated and non-critical fascination” for the vast territory of the country and its abundant natural resources, with a “vulgar, romantic and unrealistic perception about the relationship between population, economy and development”. The second is that the desire for a quick reduction of mortality rates is not accompanied by family planning efforts and opportunities; and the third is related to inadequate migration policies.

All of these could be improved by political will. Do the politicians here have the right incentives to do so? It is hard to be optimistic of anything that depends on political will here. It is certainly an exciting time, and there is lots of hope about the future in Mozambique due to new discoveries and investments in mineral resources. Indeed, megaprojects would offer a window of opportunity for employment and development, but only if well managed, which is not the case today.

If well planned and cared for, the expansion of Maputo that is being planned can be a good thing. However, I have yet to see that same investment being made in family planning, service reform, and other areas that could have an even great impact in the population growth issue.

Still, Mozambique is in a better position to face its population challenges than many other Sub-Saharan countries.

Founded in 2004, Democracy and Society is a biannual print journal published by the Center for Democracy and Civil Society at Georgetown University. The D&S Blog provides web-only content, including special reports and investigative series, on issues relating to democracy and development.

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