AMISOM: Charting a new course for African Union peace missions

Lasting peace in Somalia remains elusive. Since the collapse of the Siyad Barre government in 1991, Somalia has been the site of both failed interventions and policies of neglect. In 2007, the entry of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) promised a new opportunity to: 1) reduce the threats posed by al-Shabaab; and 2) create an enabling environment in which to consolidate state institutions and promote dialogue and reconciliation among the protagonists. However, the profound obstacles that have bogged down every previous mission remain – AMISOM operates in a fluid political landscape marked by the absence of stable political agreement amongst the main parties to the conflict. The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) is still new and fragile, and disputes within the Somali polity continue to vex state-building and stabilisation efforts. At the same time, terrorist and insurgent groups including (but not limited to) al-Shabaab have proved pernicious, resolute, and adaptable in their efforts to undermine any progress toward the FGS’s consolidation.

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Good things don’t come to an end. They spread….

Therefore, in looking at the locations where hijack-ransom piracy could spread, one of the key markers is the existence of actors who have network connections to Somalia’s pirate groups. These actors are the ones that Somali pirates interact with most frequently and are positioned to receive the tacit knowledge necessary to adopt Somali hijack-ransom piracy. There are two likely networks through which Somali piracy might diffuse: the Somali Diaspora and Al-Qaeda linked groups. The Somali Diaspora is global, though it has concentrations in East Africa, Europe and the U.S. There is anecdotal evidence of connections between Al-Qaeda (and affiliates) and Somali pirates, and there is certainly enough circumstantial evidence to assume that information passes between the groups. Additionally, the areas of southern Somalia under Al-Shabaab control represent the largest area “held” by an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, and have attracted a host of international militants.

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