Published in Information (Denmark)

27nd January 2004

Posted at



Half-hearted anti-terrorism efforts




In spite of solemn statements, western warships and soldiers in East Africa have displayed a selective interpretation of the need of fighting terrorism and illegal arms trade

By Bjørn Willum,
Correspondent of the Danish daily Information




BRUSSELS - "Anyone suspected of assisting or transporting terrorists should expect to be boarded, and will risk the sinking or seizure of vessel, and will be detained and jailed," read a severe warning said by the US Navy sent in June last year to merchant shippers in the countries around the Horn of Africa.

However, a lot of terrorists in East Africa and their suppliers - illegal arms traders and ditto smugglers - need not worry. If their boat is not on the US 'wanted list' distributed to allied ships patrolling off the Horn, they will not attract more than superficial attention from the Western sailors. Not even if they sail weapons to and from Somalia, subject since 1991 to an arms embargo that makes it illegal to sell or transport as much as a police uniform to Somalia.

Johan Peleman, chairman of the latest UN panel that investigated embargo violations, met those western captains sailing the Horn. As for the arms trade to and from Somalia, he said, "they felt they didn't have the mandate. Their role is exclusively terrorism." And terrorism is in this context apparently to be understood as known terrorists or ships with connection to organizations like al-Qaeda.

Erratic course
The fact that the lively arms trafficking makes it possible for known as well as unknown terror groups in Somalia to buy weapons like shoulder-fired missiles and use them to shoot down planes elsewhere, attracted only a shrug of the western captain's shoulders. Nevertheless, "the threat to aircraft by terrorists using shoulder-fired missiles" is among the main reasons why the US State Department currently warm against all unnecessary travel to Somalia's neighbouring country Kenya.

The panel has for therefore proposed to the UN Security Council that it authorizes the international maritime forces to help implementing the arms embargo against the devastated country. In line with its erratic course so far, the Security Council has not reacted to the proposal but instead as late as December expressed "serious concern over the continued flow of weapons and ammunition supplies to and through Somalia", stressing "its determination of holding those violators accountable".












Meagre arms seizure off the Horn of Africa
Unguarded ports open for any business