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US announces new plan to tackle Somali piracy -

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Reporter: Peter Cave

PETER CAVE: The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has unveiled a plan to fight piracy, in
response to a string of recent incidents off the Somali coast. The four-point plan includes
improving the situation in lawless Somalia; freezing the pirates' assets; and securing the release
of around 20 ships and 260 sailors still held hostage.

Yesterday, Somali pirates attacked an American freighter with rockets, reportedly in revenge for a
US Navy rescue operation last weekend in which an American merchant captain was freed, and three
pirates were killed.

In another international operation overnight, a French warship intercepted a pirate mother ship and
arrested 11 gunmen. But the piracy continues.

Professor Clive Williams is from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU. I asked him
earlier if he thought that Hillary Clinton is right to say the only way to tackle piracy is to
solve the problems in Somalia itself.

CLIVE WILLIAMS: I think so, yeah, because if you look at past successes with piracy, it's been to
do with sorting out the land problems.

You might remember that there were significant piracy problems in the Strait of Malacca, and when
Aceh was sorted out, after the tsunami, and there was money spent there and jobs provided and that
sort of thing, the piracy basically ceased to exist. So I think that sorting out the issues on land
is a key aspect to sorting out the piracy, yes.

PETER CAVE: I guess the Americans have been trying to sort out Somalia for a long time now, with no
success. Does that mean that there is always going to be piracy in that area?

CLIVE WILLIAMS: No, not necessarily. Of course, the mess was created largely by the US, because
back in 2006, you might remember, the Islamic Courts Union was starting to get a grip of the
country, and the US was worried about what it believed were links to Al Qaeda, but I don't think
they actually existed. But anyway, it encouraged the Ethiopians to invade and displace the ICU.

And what then happened was the militant youth wing, the Al Shabab, took on the fight, and has now
driven out the Ethiopians, but has got more control of the country than it did before. But the,
it's interesting that Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who was the head of the ICU, is now back as the
President of the government there.

Certainly the northern areas want to be part of a federation of Somalia. So if that could happen,
and the country could get its act together, then I think that there's potential certainly for the

PETER CAVE: In the short term, what is to stop these shipowners trying to protect themselves with

CLIVE WILLIAMS: Because you then ramp up the level of violence, and that's an approach that's been
resisted elsewhere. Because once you start introducing a violent component into it, then you create
more problems for yourself.

As you know, with the case with the Bainbridge and the killing of the three Somali pirates, they're
now decided that they're going to attack American ships and try and cause casualties in
retaliation. So it's simply ramped up the level of violence.

And I think the shipowners generally were much more prepared to go along with a situation where one
in 500 ships got hijacked - take the risk on that, pay the insurance, let the negotiations take
place and recover the crew unharmed and get their cargo back.

PETER CAVE: Now that it's happened, has it inevitably changed things forever? Or do you think it's
likely to die down?

CLIVE WILLIAMS: I think it's going to create a continuing problem for American ships, and it
remains to be seen if there are American crew on other ships that get hijacked. That might create a
problem as well.

PETER CAVE: You mentioned what happened in the Straits of Malacca. Could you just briefly take us
over how that problem was, well, all but solved?

CLIVE WILLIAMS: Well, the piracy out of, in the Strait of Malacca essentially was people coming out
of coastal villages at night and boarding vessels to basically steal the stuff that they could take
out of the safe and the ships - you know, wallets of the ship's crew, any fittings that they could
subsequently sell on and whatever. They'd take all that stuff, then they'd get off the ship and
return to their villages, and they'd then pay off local officials and sell off the items and so on.
So it was sustaining a local economy.

But once the tsunami came through - and also there was a Government agreement with GAM, the
insurgent movement there - once those issues had been settled, and there was more investment into
Aceh, then essentially there was no longer any attraction for these groups to operate out of the
coastal villages.

Some of the coastal villages were in fact also destroyed in the tsunami, so I mean, there was that
aspect as well. But essentially, I think it was about economic development in the area removed the
incentive for people to engage in piracy.

There was also, I guess, another aspect which was improved patrolling between the Indonesian,
Malaysian and Singapore authorities, which also I suppose acted as a disincentive as well.

PETER CAVE: So is increased patrolling by the navies of foreign powers an answer in Somalia?

CLIVE WILLIAMS: No, it's not, because it's a very large area, and they can go further afield, as
they have been doing. It's extremely difficult to police. There's a lot of local vessels.

I saw that an American commentator saying the ports should be blockaded. Well, if you had a look at
a Google Earth you'd see there's really no way you can blockade Somali ports. And in fact, there's
a lot of local traffic between areas like Somaliland and Yemen and across the, that whole general
area, there's a lot of fishing activity.

But interesting enough, a lot of the problems that have been created for Somalia off-shore have
been created by the countries, many of which are engaged in the patrolling activity. Because the
reasons why they engaged in piracy in the first place was because of illegal fishing activity by
countries largely European and Asian offshore, which took out most of the fish.

And then there have been European groups who have been dumping toxic waste off the coast, which has
meant that the fish that they can catch now are toxic, and cause sickness. So that's basically
destroyed the fishing industry. So, you know, that's why they switched on to piracy.

But you know, you'd have to clean up the fishery side of things to make it attractive for people to
go back into fishing. And of course if you looked at the economic prospects on land and tried to do
something about that, create alternatives for these people, that would also do something about the

PETER CAVE: Professor Clive Williams from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU,
speaking to me earlier.