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Last Updated: Feb 11, 2014 - 5:11:05 AM
Rebuttal to ‘Somalia Piracy Research’ by Dr. Anja Shortland

A research document, entitled "Treasure Mapped: Using Satellite Imagery to Track the Developmental Effects of Somali Piracy,” was published by UK-based Chattam House website, in January 2012.
This report, written by Dr. Anja Shortland of Brunel University, aimed to analyze how piracy  proceeds were used, between 2001-2009. While the aim of the research is academic, the  content is full of contradictions, uses faulty evidence, biased research methodology, street-  talk, hearsay, and was clearly prepared by a person(s) with a clear political agenda in Somalia. It is noteworthy to mention that the researcher has failed to meet her research  interests, namely the “interaction between political conditions, institutions, and economic  outcomes.”
Furthermore, it is no coincidence that this research is published now, at a time when Puntland  State’s national and international profile is at an all-time high and as Puntland State prepares  to attend the international conference on Somalia, organized and hosted by the UK  Government to be held in London on 23 February 2012.
The researcher’s contradictions are embarrassing by any measure. While claiming throughout  the 28-page report that piracy proceeds are spent locally, the researcher goes on to say: “…a  significant proportion of the proceeds is invested in foreign goods or channeled to foreign  financiers.” In another example on page 4, the researcher says: “…because much of the  money generated is moved aboard.”

The research is riddled with meaningless phrases, such as: “are said to be”; “alternative  explanations”; “perceived to be”; “could well be linked to”; “might be”; “common assertion”;  “could well be”; “potentially linked”; “relatively better off”; and many other examples.

In academic literature, it is unprofessional and indeed counter-productive to use the above-  mentioned words and phrases. Using such words and phrases undermines the research,  exploits the researcher’s inherent academic weakness, and destroys the credibility of the  research. While recognizing the researcher’s academic credentials, it is nonetheless prudent to  highlight the unprofessional documentation by the researcher and the research methodology  used. For example, the researcher has never visited Puntland State – nor does the researcher  understand the complex history and culture of Somalia. Moreover, the researcher admits  “while each of the data sources has significant weaknesses…” (Page 3). In academic protocol,  it is common knowledge that the wrong data sources produce the wrong outcome. As such,  the researcher’s documentation was flawed from the onset.

On page 18, the researcher argues that “mass emigration from Puntland is relatively recent.”  Any student of history recognizes that there has not been any “mass emigration” from  Puntland in recent years. In fact, natives returned to ancestral lands in Puntland State  following the violent collapse of the Somali central government in 1991 and the subsequent  massacre of Darod clansmen in Mogadishu and other southern towns. This period marked a  major demographic shift from southern to northern Somalia (i.e. Puntland), thereby leading to  rapid urban growth. This natural progression over time urbanized towns and cities in Puntland  and Somaliland, as the researcher recognized on page 11, stating: “Total light emission  increased over time in Puntland and Somaliland. This reflects both reconstruction after the  civil war and diaspora remittances supporting consumption and development.” However, the researcher made no effort to explain the reason for similar urban growth in Somaliland, while  the researcher unashamedly and ignorantly attributes urban growth in Puntland to piracy  proceeds.

Urban growth in Puntland State is a result of the ingenuity, creativity, entrepreneurship,  determination and vision of the people of Puntland – including Diaspora communities. For 30  years of Somali central government rule, the Puntland regions remained the most backward  regions of the entire country, with no airports, roads, public institutions, hospitals and universities.

However, after 1991 when Puntlanders fled southern Somalia and returned to
their ancestral lands in Puntland, the region has undergone tremendous growth. This is mainly  due to the peace dividends –that Puntland has enjoyed stability, which attracts investment  and leads to the growth of cities. It is this stability that people have been fleeing northward to  Puntland for the past 20 years. Local entrepreneurs and the Diaspora have invested in the  private sector, leading to development in Puntland State.

There is a worrying trend in the researcher’s use of words. In two examples, the researcher  makes unproven relationship between a “clan” and pirates: “…pirate money has contributed  to the rapid growth of this town [Garowe], which is at the heart of the pirates’ clan homeland”

(Page 18). This statement is prejudiced towards one particular group of Somalis; in fact,  piracy can be found along the entire Somali coastline and pirates belong to practically every  clan in Somalia. If we were to accept the researcher’s prejudice towards “Garowe clan” as  supporters of piracy, then it is suffice to say that “Garowe clan” is the same as “Eyl clan” –  and the entire world knows that Eyl is the only town in Somalia where the community (clan) successfully chased away pirate gangs. In this connection, the researcher states: “…the UN  reports that the Puntland authorities concentrated their land-based counter-piracy operations in 2010 in Eyl, leading to the relocation of pirate activity towards Hobyo and Garacad” (Page 15). What a great contradiction!

It is abundantly clear that Puntland Government abides by national and international law.  After establishing the Puntland Maritime Police Force (PMPF) in 2010 to fight pirates on land  and along the coast, the Puntland Government pursued a notification process to the UN  Security Council to attain a waiver to continue training the PMPF units and to station them  along strategic coastal towns in Puntland State. As such, the researcher’s argument that  “Bossaso was a pirate port in the past” and that the port is used to import “pirate equipment  such as communications technology, motors and weapons” (Page 13) is intentionally  deceptive and a calculated move to mislead international opinion. No weapons are imported  in Bossaso or other parts of Puntland State, as this violates the UN arms embargo.

It comes as no surprise, because the researcher believes that pirates“provide local governance  and stability” in Somalia and that pirates “help other entrepreneurs to trade more easily” (Page 7). Who on earth with a common sense could unashamedly state that criminals, such as  pirates, produce stability and help trade in a country? 

The researcher is not knowledgeable about the recent piracy attacks targeting vessels heading  to or leaving Puntland’s Port of Bossaso. While all pirate attacks threaten security and trade in  Puntland, specific pirate attacks targeting vessels heading to or leaving the Port of Bossaso  endanger Puntland’s economic lifeline and emphasizes the Government’s strong commitment  to eradicate piracy from Somali shores.

The researcher makes many surprising assertions, which underline the researcher’s ignorance  on Somalia and the researcher’s inclined pro-piracy position.

On a number of pages, the researcher makes erroneous links between piracy and cattle prices.  Cattle exports constitute the least in all livestock exports from Puntland State. According to  data from the Port of Bossaso, cattle exports in Puntland State accounted for 7% of all livestock export in 2010 and 2011. By comparison, sheep/goat export accounted for 91% and  89.8% of all livestock exports in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Moreover, Puntland nomads do  not traditionally raise cattle for consumption or export. It is a wonder that the researcher could  not find out that cattle is found in the inter-riverine area between Shabelle and Jubba rivers, in  southern Somalia. Therefore, it is not clear to see from the research precisely the link the  researcher attempts to make between piracy and cattle exports, the link is completely out of  context and thereby confuses the reader.

Moreover, the researcher makes absurd self-explanatory claims that praise pirates:

• “The result that the growth of the pirate industry has lowered the average price of  imported rice might be explained by pirates providing local governance and  stability.” [Page 9]

• “Pirate financiers and ex-pirates are said to be investing in local businesses and  contributing to local governance.” [Page 4]

Furthermore, the researcher rejects the military option, but fails to provide other  recommendations, thereby indicating the researcher’s inclined position to advocate for the  continuation of piracy activities along Somalia’s coastline:

• “A military crack-down on the other hand would deprive one of the world’s poorest  nations of an important source of income and aggravate poverty.” [Page 20]

At no point throughout a 28-page report does the researcher manage to speak of or  sympathize with the suffering of innocent seafarers held hostage by pirates, nor does the  researcher condemn the act of ransom payments, which is the number one fuel-factor that  encourages piracy to continue. Indeed, the researcher has clear political motivations or interests, which is apparent throughout the document. But one example is suffice to demonstrate our point:

• “…this study focused on the three provinces that make up Puntland: Bari, Nugal and  Muduq.”

As a researcher, it is a pre-requisite to read and study about the current and historical  developments of any particular research topic, in this case a country or region of the world.

Even if the researcher disagrees, it is vitally important to maintain a neutral voice vis-à-vis the  Somali political landscape. In this relation, it would have better served the researcher to  identify Puntland State’s regions as five regions of Nugal, Bari, Mudug, Sool, and Sanaag.

Clearly, the researcher excludes Sool and Sanaag – the same position of the Somaliland  administration, in northwestern Somalia. It is well known that Somaliland administration is  troubled by Puntland State’s rising international profile – following the Puntland Government’s strong action against terrorists and pirates.


H.E. Saeed Mohamed Rage
Minister for Maritime Transport, Ports and Counter-Piracy
Puntland State of Somalia
Office: +252 90 799404 / +252 90 799128

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