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

Djibouti Sues France

From Opinio Juris comes news Dijibouti, where our Marines have an counter-terrorism base and are practicing the a real campaign of public diplomacy (see CT in the Horn and Revisiting the Roosevelt Doctrine).

[T]he Republic of Djibouti has filed an application with the International Court of Justice against France alleging France violated its treaty obligations to provide judicial assistance in a Djibouti criminal investigation.

This looks like a fairly tedious and unimportant case. The only
interesting aspect (to me, anyway) is whether France refuses to accept
the ICJ’s jurisdiction. France famously withdrew from the compulsory
jurisdiction of the ICJ back in 1996 (those unilateralist Frenchies, so
disrespectful of international courts!) and this case can only go
forward with France’s consent. If France refuses to accept ICJ
jurisdiction, even here in this fairly minor case, it will be a slap at
the ICJ’s authority and credibility.

“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.

 

Kathryn Cramer: Top Cat Marine Security Has an Executive Level

In an effort to keep information fresh, from Kathryn Cramer’s blog on TopCat Marine Security:

We had our differences and I’m no longer associated with Peter Casini, TCMS, Cobra Boats, Topcat Design or any other Casini enterprise.

It seems that "Bacehlor #3" in an earlier post by Kathryn is a man who now is making it clear he has nothing to do with TopCat. TCMS is an interesting org, but still more interesting: Did they hope to get in front of the coming action?

MOOTW or War Itself is coming

There can be little doubt that the intersection of US and Chinese interests (i.e. oil, gas, etc) in Africa and the existence of failed or failing states will give ample opportunity for somebody to intervene. Between the stories of TopCat Marine Security trying to vie for a security contract (cease and desist? come on…), the UK adding to a substantial US presence, and front-companies (which could include TopCat?) the US could do a stellar job staying up-front, out front, and public with humanitarian and other helpful aid in the region in a real battle for hearts and minds. The Chinese are doing it, we need to do publically do it. This is espcially important as armed groups may be preparing major offensive:

Unidentified armed groups in the north of Central African Republic (CAR) may be preparing a major offensive, the African Union said in a report issued on Thursday.

SAS-SBS joining US Forces in Africa

Things are heating up in Africa. See this story from The Herald:

THE UK’s special forces are being deployed to Djibouti, the impoverished state which dominates the entrance to the Red Sea, to join US Delta Force commandos in the hunt for al Qaeda training camps along the Horn of Africa.

Some 2000 Marines are already there backing up US Special Forces.

Rove Energy Corporation Limited

Somaliland_maplarge_1The blogosphere is increasingly used to incite and investigate and this recent comment is a further example of this growing use of the new pamphleteers to influence events. The region in question has obvious links to other disucssions on this site (see the Somalia category and take your pick of readings).

How does the South African Ophir Corporation has recently announced a 75% stake in the Rova Energy Corporation figure into all of this? The maritime diplomacy of the Chinese, Yemini fields accessed from Somalia, and the general lawlessness of the region certainly makes for some interesting reading. More investigation on this surely to come. Comments, leads?

Update: Has TopCat Marine Security Been Ordered to Cease & Desist? & Other Regional News

Possibly so, according to Kathryn Cramer’s blog, Top Cat Marine Security Ordered to Cease & Desist.

…the US Department of States Bureau of Arms Control has issued a Cease and Desist order to Top Cat Marine Security on their pirate-fighting contract with Somalia….

But so what?

Ethiopia_eritrea2_map416 From the region are BBC reports of Eritrea ejecting UN peacekeepers monitoring the border with Ethiopia. This comes as a possible reaction to threatened UN sanctions resulting from a lack of compliance with a five year old peace agreement. Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council gave an unusually strong rebuke in response: "The Security Council unequivocally demands that Eritrea immediately reverse its decision without preconditions." The most recent flash point was Badme, far from the contested Horn areas and the coast. Is this related or coincidental? Keep reading for a lesson on complexity systems (you’ll have to read my other posts… at some point I’ll do another, overview).

The region has a lot going on right now. Rumors of something happening before Christmas seem to be gaining traction with reality.

However, some key questions yet to be answered:

  • Was a "cease and desist" actually issued, assuming that is the appropriate legal remedy in this case? If not, will it be? Will it be a paper tiger?
  • Does this mean the dissolution of TopCat Marine Security for either the purpose of protecting Somalia’s coast or for good?
  • Will those involved with TopCat regroup, if the haven’t already, and continue on their planned path?
  • If this was a clandestine operation, will USG do a better job next time? (Based on the participants in this fiasco I highly doubt this was a USG-sponsored adventure. If it was, somebody should be demoted or fired.)
  • Lastly, will there be similar fanfare in the media over the termination of this coast protection solution? I doubt it because I doubt the validity and legitimacy of the whole TopCat endeavor.
  • Will there be another public attempt at a private or public solution? Will the EU, AU, UN be more involved the next go’round, especially as a result of the publicity?
  • OR was this all a complete shame by a criminal (see Kathryn Cramer’s post on Casini & TopCat, the "man" behind TopCat Marine Security) and Somalia is no closer to security or will good things result from the publicity? Based on certain rumors and suggestions, I question the likelihood of this path… it seems like a lot of mobilizing went in behind the scenes to stop a scam artist and a lot interest from people other than District Attorney’s (lawyers working for municipalities in the United States) and Attorney’s General (lawyers working for states in the United States).

My money is on the last option AND the third option. This puzzle isn’t complete, just one of the pieces has been dropped (kicked?) to the floor. While we don’t have confirmation yet, Casini may be getting called on his failure / inability to deliver product to (shady) buyers and compliance with US Code (and apparently bankruptcy courts, etc). However, what is the real importance of the "cease & desist"? Does it not just legally halt TCMS’s involvement? What was their REAL participation anyways? Providing some boats, making some wonder how long before the pirates are cruising on COBRAs, to the region, possibly some teeth? The change of scope from littoral anti-piracy to seeking the "mother-ship" and back was either a lack of discretion by the in-over-his-head Casini or ?

Kathryn Cramer has a theory it was related to insuring ships.

Information / feedback I have received and reviewed indicate TCMS was simply part of something larger and not a lone wolf out to make a few bucks. With TCMS out, will the underlying effort it was clearly providing cover for cease, burrow, or disperse? The access to natural resources (including Yemeni fields accessed from Somalia), the Chinese, and armed factions inland are at most related to the piracy problem and not direct consequences of privateering. The land-bound warlords obviously have at least some control (are there sealords in the area? Kevin Costner, are you out there? sorry…) over the pirates, but they aren’t the whole game.

More to come for sure as the security situation of Somalia is dire. A reality underscored by the  reporting from Kenya of another hijacking of a ship of "unknown ownership and registry was seized in the pirate-infested waters of Somalia early Tuesday".

:: See also the Somalia and Africa categories for additional information, include Chinese and energy implications