Matt Armstrong's blog on public diplomacy, international journalism, and the struggle against propaganda

Is Somalia seeking Chinese protection?

Thanks JS (not the Armchair Generalist, another JS) for sending this story on Somalia a while back (that I’m just getting to now):

U.S. hires military contractor to back peacekeeping mission in Somalia
By Chris Tomlinson
1:20 p.m. March 7, 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya – The State Department has hired a major military contractor to help equip and provide logistical support to international peacekeepers in Somalia, giving the United States a significant role in the critical mission without assigning combat forces.

DynCorp International, which also has U.S. contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be paid $10 million to help the first peacekeeping mission in Somalia in more than 10 years.

The article continues… blah blah blah… but it concludes on an interesting note:

The United States is not the only country seeking to provide private military services in Africa.

In 2005 the Somali government signed a $50 million contract with New York-based TopCat Marine Security to help create a coast guard to protect its coast and shipping from pirates. The State Department blocked TopCat from deploying because of a U.N. arms embargo, Hassan Abshir Farah, Somalia’s marine resources minister said.

Farah said his government was now discussing a deal with the Chinese government and Chinese marine security firms.

Of course the US isn’t the only one offering protection, private or public, to Africa. (why the focus on private military services? Right, it’s the “in topic”.) DynCorp’s involvement isn’t special, spectacular, or really innovative. Not really interesting but noteworthy is the reason given for the death of the TopCat deal, but I won’t waste my time on TopCat. If you care, see Kathryn Cramer’s post on the cease-and-desist order by State to TopCat Marine or see links off my recent summary of the events around the TopCat screw-up.

What is interesting is the last sentence. The Chinese are in a full court press on the continent, as I’ve noted in various blog posts. While they don’t care about the plight of the people, they do care about the plight of the elites. There’s money to be made on fishing etc (the same fish stocks China’s poaching) that China is more than happy to help the gov’t protect (for a fee). Also, keep in mind the Chinese way of sealing the deal is different than that the Americans. We include lawyers and the Chinese include promises of unrelated business to sway the decision maker as necessary, sweetening the deal and ignoring details to be dealt with later. While we look over the details with lawyers, China says “Deal! We’ll work out the details later.”

It will be interesting to see if we see a headline with both China and Somalia in it in the near future.

Somalia: what was happening last year about this time?

With all that is the happening in the Horn right now, I thought I’d revisit some of my posts from last year this time on Somalia and the Horn. It won’t fully answer the question Why Somalia? but it will shed some light. I apologize for the year old info in advance, I don’t have the time right now to update these posts but it is still useful background.

Back in November 2005, the TFG (Transitional Federal Government) of Somalia signed an interesting $55m contract (the post notes $50m but later info showed it was slightly higher). Why? Ostensibly as a response to the attack on the cruise ship, Seabourn Spirit, a few weeks before. This whole thing was fishy, between the attackers needing a mother ship to mount the blue water attack to what was a civilian cruise ship doing with military grade hardware that is illegal under international maritime law. More came out on this, which I wrote about in an obscenely long post that questions various potential backers of TopCat (SOCOM? OGA? idiots?), looks at Congressional oversight and US arms trade laws (the value of the contract was a red flag requiring Congressional authorization, a lower value and State, i.e. Executive Branch, could authorize itself), provides some background on PMCs, and some other points.

Continue reading

South Korean ship seized off Somalia

Briefly, South Korean ship seized off Somalia:

Pirates have seized a South Korean fishing boat off the coast of Somalia – the latest in a series of such attacks.

The Dongwon-ho 628, with a crew of 25, was fishing with
two other South Korean boats in international waters, when two
speedboats landed attackers on board.

US and Dutch naval ships gave chase, but held off when they saw the South Korean crew threatened with guns.

The boat is now in Somali territorial waters, but the Dongwon company says the crew is reported safe.

The South Korean squadron was 100km from the coast. How are the fishing stocks doing with all the foreign ships working the take?

Technorati Tags:
Horn of Africa,
Current Affairs,

Is TopCat really in “mobilization”?

From Karthryn Cramer comes a tasty bit of news that the BBC wasn’t actually wrong when it said Top Cat Marine Security was in a “mobilisation phase” (UK spelling). From Ms Kathryn Cramer:

[a] company that builds boats identical to Top Cat’s seems to have set up shop in Panama

Panama is nice place to hide. A commentator on Kathryn’s site says Casini, if it is Top Cat, can’t hide in Panama because ITAR can still reach Pete, he being a US citizen and all. I don’t think that is why he’s hidingout. The US State Department’s "cease & desist" is still a fuzzy red herring to me until I actually see something. The more I ponder this, the more it seems USG was involved. As I said in the past, somebody should have been fired for selecting Top Cat Marine security as cover. More to come for sure.

Technorati Tags: Panama, TopCat, Somalia, Casini

“Foreign Friends” financing private company off Somali Waters?

An interesting item was on the BBC News website about the Somali coast being the most dangerous coast in the world, along with a recent Naval War College article (Aug 2005) by a professor at the National Defense College of the Philippines reiterated future if not present links and partnerships between terrorism and piracy, suggests the (obvious) point the attempted cruiseship hijacking that was thwarted by a military grade counter-measure (which was on a civilian vessel for what reason? isn’t mil grade hardware illegal?) had more to do with terrorism than piracy. Even it was piracy, it would likely lead to terrorism following any line of logical reasoning.

The BBC item included a quote from the Somali minister for Planning
and International Cooperation, "Abdi Rizak". Dr. Abdirizak Jurile,
apparently referencing the TopCat Marine Security contract for US$55m,
told the BBC New website a contract with a private US security company
was "in the mobilisation phase". The BBC News item was posted 5 January
2005, but a cease & desist order (and here on Kathryn Cramer’s site) was allegedly in the works one month ago.

What does the good Doctor’s mean when he says a contract with an American company, financed by "foreign friends," is in the "mobilization phase"? True, it takes time to move equipment and personnel into the area, but are we still talking about TopCat? Who was financing TopCat? The US$55m cost of the contract requires Congressional approval beyond State Department approval (or rubber stamping). See the Somalia / Horn of Africa category on this site and start at the bottom for background and other discussion on this.

First, who is the doctor? According to the former Governor of the Central Bank of Somalia, Dr Abdirizak Jurile has been controlling Transitional Federal Government (TFG) funds "without accountability, transparency and parliamentary oversight". The former Governor, Mr. Mohamud M Uluso, also alleges Dr Abdirizak has opposed rectifying the control issues Mr Uluso highlights. The timing of Mr Uluso’s dismissal, 24 September 2005, and the cruise ship hijacking & subsequent TopCat contract  are tempting to link, but can they? The removal of Mr Uluso was unconstitutional and unlawful. He was removed by Presidential Decree and not by approval by the Council of Ministers as required. Mr Uluso’s allegations surrounding his dismissal very interesting:                      

In addition, the allegation of disobeying order from the Prime Minister, Prof Ali M Gedi [see Marathon Oil / Range Resources and TopCat / Ogaden for more on Prime Minister Gedi] is baseless and preposterous. The President of the Republic, whose responsibility is to ascertain accusations concerning government officials through due process, did not offer me the opportunity for rebuttal on the false allegation made against me. Aside, the Governor of the CB has the obligation and duty to refuse orders contrary to law from the Prime Minister.

Furthermore, the Central Bank Act establishes the term of office of the Governor in order to protect him from such abuse of power, illegal removal on baseless accusations, and to let him fulfill his duty with integrity, independence  and accountability. The claim that an official can be removed by who appointed him has no legal basis and it is erroneous belief. TFG is subject to the Transitional Federal Charter, the 1960 Constitution and all democratic laws passed before 1969.

There may have been differences of opinions or expectations on the issues briefly described in the annex such as printing new currency, management of government funds, opening of accounts in foreign countries, role of the Central Bank, opening of Central Bank Office in Jowhar, and preparation of government budget.

Mr Uluso continues and requests international support to investigate his dismissal. The charges he makes are substantial and indicative of attempts to establish a properly functioning government without corruption.

So, where is the money coming from? Still no idea but perhaps supplemental financing for natural resource contracts? There were rumors Europeans would be pitching in some bucks but those have evaporated like Peter Casini. Curious.

Incidently, since 27 December 2005, one incident, without loss, was reported to the International Chamber of Commerce  on 2 January 2006: the three speedboats tailing a tanker in the Gulf of Aden.


Al-Qaeda Manhunt in Kenya

From the Jamestown Weekly Journal of News and Analysis on International Terrorism comes news of US CT (counter-terror) / al-Qaeda operations in Kenya. Andrew McGregor writes (text is below) about operations along the Kenya-Somalia border as the Horn region become hotter than before.

Al-Qaeda Manhunt in Kenya
Andrew McGregor

Kenya is widely remembered as the site of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing that killed over 200 people and cast al-Qaeda into international prominence. The attack was followed by a 2002 suicide car bombing that targeted a hotel popular with Israelis near Mombassa and the attempted destruction of an Israeli airliner. In both incidents, the vast majority of victims were Kenyans. There is, however, a great difference in the perception of the ongoing terrorist threat in Nairobi and Washington. Over Kenyan opposition the U.S. has issued a new terrorist warning for Kenya, damaging the important Kenyan tourism industry. Kenyan officials claim their country is largely free from terrorist threat and is unfairly blamed for its unavoidable proximity to lawless Somalia.

The warning cites “continuing terrorist threats and the limited ability of the Kenyan authorities to deter and detect such acts” (U.S. State Department, December 30). One day after the warning was issued Kenyan Internal Security announced they were intensifying their search for suspected al-Qaeda members. Of special interest are two Mombassa-born Kenyans, Ahmad Salim Swedan and Salah Ali Salah Nabhan, both indicted in the U.S. for leading roles in the 1998 bombing and suspected of planning the 2002 attacks. Nabhan is believed to be living in Mogadishu. Kenyan security officials claim that al-Qaeda is active in the country only through infiltrators from Somalia. Muslims constitute about 10 percent of Kenya’s population and are a majority in the port city of Mombassa.

U.S. and Israeli officials are highly displeased with the June 2005 acquittals of seven suspects brought to trial on conspiracy charges in the 2002 hotel bombing. Charges of planning a new attack on the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 2003 were dropped. The lack of convictions has fostered perceptions the U.S. that the Kenyan government is not serious about terrorism.

Despite the development of well-trained counter-terrorist forces, large areas of the sensitive Somali-Kenyan border remain poorly administered and beyond the operational range of conventional Kenyan police or their anti-terrorist squadrons. The recent seizure of a rocket launcher and ammunition by the poorly equipped Administration Police (AP) was the result of solid police work following a tip that weapons were being brought across the border. Without radios or other communications equipment, an AP constable had to wait two days to hitch a ride from a UN vehicle to the closest regular Kenyan police detachment to report the arrest (The Nation [Nairobi], January 3). With drought and a growing food shortage in the region there are fears of large-scale movement of nomads across the border that may be exploited by members of the al-Qaeda connected al-Ittihad movement. There are also security concerns in Mombassa, where the port security chief was recently murdered when he failed to accept a bribe to stop investigation of a large container-theft syndicate. A Kenyan MP and his family are being investigated in the killing (The Nation, January 4).

The U.S. occupation of Iraq is unpopular in Kenya, and the renewal of the terrorism advisory has been widely condemned by government and the media. The United States maintains a counter-terrorist force in Djibouti (known as the Combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa) that has participated with Kenya in combined military exercises designed to combat regional terrorist activity. Although further security assistance has been offered to Kenya by both the U.S. and the EU, persistent corruption at all levels of government is hindering international cooperation and threatens foreign aid.