USAID may increase development assistance to Somalia

Senator Kirk at the Shimo la Tewa Prison in Mombasa, Kenya
where five dozen Somali pirates are held, including Ahmed
Abdulkadir Hersi.

From 2008 to 2011 the development assistance provided by USAID to Somalia decreased from $260 to $80 million. Language has been inserted into the foreign appropriations bill that could indicate a change in this trend in order to address the root-causes of piracy.  Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved S.3241, including the following provision:

(g) PIRACY.—Not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act, and following consultation with other relevant Federal agencies, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a diplomacy and development counter-piracy strategy for the Horn of Africa region, including an assessment of the potential effectiveness of economic and security assistance for vulnerable Somali and Kenyan communities in providing gainful alternatives to piracy and encouraging collective action within such communities against groups and individuals involved in piracy. (emphasis added).

The language was inserted by Mark Kirk who has taken on maritime piracy as one of his policy initiatives. In April 2011, he compiled a report including recommendations to stem the rise of piracy:

  1. A US/UN ban on ransom payments that support the expansion of pirate operations
    and support for East African Al Qaeda/Al Shabaab terror;
  2. Aggressive Rules of Engagement giving authority for local naval commanders to
    attack and disable pirate “motherships,” leaving them adrift to empower on-scene
    commanders with the tactical authority to arrest pirates and rescue crews;
  3. Economic Assistance to reward Transitional Federal Government (TFG),
    Somaliland, Puntland, Ahlusunna Wal-jamea (ASWJ) and Jubaland frontline
    communities who confront or convert Al Shabaab or pirate-controlled areas;
  4. Judicial Assistance to Puntland and Kenya to expand their courts and prisons to
    readily accept pirates captured by international or Somali allied military/law
    enforcement forces;
  5. Military Assistance to TFG, Puntland, Somaliland, ASWJ or Jubaland forces who
    gain control of Al Shabaab or pirate-controlled areas; and,
  6. A Blockade of the three primary pirate ports and shorelines, including the El Danaan
    Anchorage, where 12 western tankers/merchant ships with 290 hostages are held.

The language inserted into the bill would ostensibly support point 3 on the list of proposals.  Development assistance has been encouraged as a way to dis-incentivize piracy as the lack of any other sources of income has made piracy an attractive option for young Somalis. However, any increase in assistance would have to contend with the danger of graft in the TFG and other institutions. As USAID puts it, “The situation in Somalia is highly fluid, and Somalia’s social, economic, and political development faces formidable challenges.”

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