The hijacking of a ship laden with battle tanks and other military hardware for the Kenya’s Armed Forces demonstrates not just how dangerous the sea lanes around the Horn of Africa have become, but also the extent to which lack of effective government in Somalia is a threat to the entire region.
The presence of American, French, Russian, British, German, Malaysian and other international naval forces has not deterred pirates who have made the seas off Somalia about the most dangerous in the world.
This is a situation that will only be contained by aggressive international action, in which the countries in the region that are most affected by instability and lawlessness in Somalia must play a leading role.
Kenya and other countries within the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) — Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Djibouti and Eritrea — must move with new resolve to help find solutions to the Somalia crisis.
Igad, under Kenya’s leadership, played a key role in brokering the agreement that led to installation of the Transitional Government in Somalia.
Ethiopia, with American backing, unilaterally moved troops into Somalia to support the transitional government.
The African Union has sent peacekeeping force, but the small team, comprising mostly Ugandans, makes only for a symbolic presence.
Igad and the AU must devise new strategies in what should be a concerted international effort to contain lawlessness in Somalia.
As a first step, the international navies already operating around the Somalia borders should be mandated by the AU and the UN to take the war to the pirates off Somalia waters.
The Igad countries should play a major role in such an initiative by contributing troops to the mission.
It is important for peace and stability in the entire region that the pirates are neutralised once and for all.
However, the military option can only be a response to the immediate security threat. Ultimately, peace will only come with a comprehensive settlement in Somalia that installs an effective government.
That will have to be a government that enjoys the support and mandate of the majority of Somali people, a role the transitional government is ill-suited for.