The twenty or so warships of the anti-piracy patrol have made a
difference, with half the number of ships being captured by pirates since the
foreigners arrived. There were only two captures in December, while in the months
before that, it was about four a month. Most of the warships are escorting
convoys of merchant ships through the Gulf of Aden. But many merchant ships
don't want to wait for a convoy to form, go it alone, and are most vulnerable to
the pirates. Last year, about 120 ships were attacked, and 40 captured. At
least 19 of these are still being held. Those that were ransomed are believed
to have been paid a total of $30-40 million.
parliament has 30 days to elect a new president, via secret ballot. The TNG was
supposed to hold national elections in 2009, but that seems unlikely. Most of
the clans negotiated the organization of the TNG, but could not agree on how to
run it. Now several factions of the TNG, several factions of Islamic Courts,
Somaliland, Puntland and several wealthy pirate warlords up north, all contend
convoys have begun leaving Mogadishu, and there is panic in Baidoa (the capital
of the TNG) at the thought of Ethiopian troops leaving there as well. African Union
peacekeepers in Mogadishu are also discussing getting out, rather than face the
wrath, alone, of local clans eager to regain their control of the city. The
Ethiopians are expected to be all gone by the end of the month, and then there
will be more intense fighting, as the clan militias, as is their custom, try to
make the most of the new situation.
2008: In Mogadishu, clan militias loyal to the TNG are planning on leaving with
the Ethiopians, not wanting to face the gunmen from local clans alone.
2008: Fighting has intensified in Mogadishu, where local clans sense that they
will be able to return to their neighborhoods, from the refugee camps outside
town, because Ethiopian troops are leaving.
2008: After four years in office, Transitional National Government (TNG)
president Abdullahi Yusuf has resigned. He was never able to unite the many
factions in the country, even though all those factions, after several years of
negotiations, were able to cobble together
the TNG. Part of Yusuf's problem was corruption, Much foreign aid flowed to the
TNG, and much of it was stolen by Yusuf and his cronies. Those friends, their
families, and what's left of the loot, are now fleeing Baidoa for Puntland.
2008: Al Shabaab was forced out of another central Somali town, by more moderate
Islamic fighters. This left another twenty or so dead or wounded. More moderate
Islamic Courts militia, some of them allied with the Transitional National
Government (TNG), have united to oppose the radical al Shabaab fighters, who
are too radical and righteous for most Somalis tastes.
2008: For the last few days, there has been fighting in Gureil (370 kilometers north
of Mogadishu) between radical Islamic fighters (al Shabaab) and local,
generally pro-government Islamic Courts group. There have been several dozen
casualties, and the al Shabaab group was eventually driven away.
2008: Yemen is creating a regional anti-piracy center, which will collect and
distribute information on piracy and anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden
region. The center will be operational in about six months. Many of the "Somali
pirates" are actually Yemenis, and the Yemeni coast guard is too small to
keep pirates away from the Yemeni coast. However, the government has sufficient
control on land to prevent pirates from establishing the kind of bases they
have in northern Somalia.