Category Archives: Global Analysis

A Geographical Breakdown of What’s Going on in the World

Africa: “A Problem As Unique As Each of its Constituent Parts”

Still terrifying, but not as monolithic as some envision.
“Security issues are still terrifying, but not as monolithic as some suggest.”

Regarding Mr. Hipple’s article “African Navies Week: Al Shabaab is Only the Beginning”, he addressed a critical issue which all too often does not receive proper attention.  It is a daunting prospect to try and pull in the disparate threats from across the continent formulating a single threat analysis and, while his conclusion is accurate in that he points out the diverse threats facing the continent, from a purely security-focused perspective, it still lacks some necessary clarity.  The problem is the moment you start looking at how individual factors within a given country are driving conflict/instability, you quickly lose the scent of how it ties into the transnational threat groups.  There is also the problem of how far back you are willing to look, the specter of Colonialism is still present and the post-colonial relationships cannot be entirely discounted.

There are too many fundamentally different factors at play across Africa to compare the potential for total, though not collective chaos that threatens the continent and still have the comparison to Afghanistan be a strong one.  While Afghanistan is easily evoked as a common point of reference and there are elements of similarity that narrowly can be compared, each region of the continent has enough of its own issues to cause the wheels to come off of the Afghan comparison.  Additionally, once you make the comparison to Afghanistan it easily leads to a false equivalency.

The threat from Boko Haram (BH) is real and growing yet the Nigerian Government is wholly unprepared to handle it – their heavy-handed tactics have increased distrust in the government and have not deterred or degraded BH.  More importantly, the growing alignment between Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and BH marks a significant development in the connectivity of pan-African terrorism.  However, these groups do not monopolize the West African threat.  The spread of BH into Cameroon is tied to their evasion the Nigerian military’s offensive operations.  What is happening in Niger with regards to BH is mostly proximate.  The more apt comparison for the growing instability in Niger is the likeness to Mali where you see disenfranchised Tuaregs of the north returning from service in Libya (Gaddafi’s desert battalions) flush with weapons, training and a desire to have a say in their government.  In both Mali and Niger, the Tuaregs have been persecuted and altogether cut out of the political process by the ethnically separate majority in the southern capitals.

Disenchantment with the government in Bamako and simmering ethnic discord set the stage for French operations in January, however, what caught world attention was the marriage of convenience by the MUJWA and elements of AQIM.  Given the disassociated natures of the AQ franchise, it can be difficult to make sweeping generalities because the various strains (AQIM, AQEA, AQAP, AQI and AQSL) each have their own local idiosyncrasies, but one thing they do have in common is their ability to first bond with a local cause/faction on ideologically tenuous grounds and then quickly alienate themselves from the population with their unique extremist ideology which is often incompatible with local norms – see AQI and the Sunnis, AQAP and the Tribes of south central Yemen or AQIM and the Tuaregs.

My point is, while virulent strains of AQ exist across the corners of the continent and in their own right pose a threat, they have had difficulty building and maintaining strong and enduring relationships with other local movements.  The AQ-BH connection is growing, and AQEA/AS in the past two years “formalized” their relationship, however, when you look at the nature of the threat on the ground in Somalia for example, there is a definite rift.

Continuing in the East, while the threat from AS/AQEA has expanded beyond Somalia, it is worth noting that the focus of their ire has not been indiscriminate but has targeted those countries participating in AMISOM.  With regards to CAR, while Seleka partnership with anyone would only further degrade a poor situation, the nature of the Seleka rebels themselves does not lend itself to partnership with any of the aforementioned groups.  It is also worth noting that within days of capturing the capital, the rebel groups splintered and immediately fell into the same trap as their government predecessors – an inability to exert influence beyond the capital.  What this means in the long term is that the security vacuum is being filled by the rebels with no real solution.

Moving North, there is a fascinating and frightening mélange of issues at play in the Maghreb and the single commonality is that each of the governments in their various degrees of weakness is attempting to quell internal dissent.  Libya is the new frontier since the fall of Gaddafi, and the government has no ability to project power, they cannot control the capital let alone anywhere else are forced to in equal measure threaten and placate the militias within Tripoli.  However, the ungoverned spaces elsewhere have been, at least temporarily ceded, as the government attempts to consolidate power.  Tunisia is still dealing with the fall out of the Arab spring and has been unable to form a coalition government that meets the needs of both Islamic factions and strong secular sentiments/groups.

While the graphic paints a fairly grim picture of the continent, the reality is even grimmer yet as it fails to capture one of the longest ongoing conflict in the Kivu region of Eastern DRC.  Furthermore, with regards to the maritime threat, there are fundamentally different factors at play on the East and West Coast; while piracy is the end result, the elements driving them are quite different.  In HOA you have piracy being driven by the fact that Somalia is a failed state and pirates take advantage of their proximity of shipping lanes in the Bab-el-Mandeb.  Along the West coast, the piracy issue is being driven by the desire to exploit components associated with the off-short oil wealth of Nigeria.  The biggest problem as it applies to maritime security is that too many governments across Africa still perceive maritime security to be a luxury they cannot afford.  It is easy to discuss how it Maritime security has a chance to minimize the flow of extremists and the vast potential to make a positive impact, but like so many things, without sufficient local buy-in, the effort is dead on arrival.

It is difficult to address broad security threats across Africa without becoming hopelessly mired in the details; this is why all too often security threats on the continent are looked at in isolation without broader thought given to overarching threats.  This is further complicated by the fact that the commonality of the threats spanning the breadth of the continent, their origins and likely the solutions, exist beyond the security realm.  Uneven and underdevelopment, disenfranchised populations, and natural resource exploitation along often colonial lines drive what has to date been considered an acceptable level of instability.  The various extremist movements are indicative of systemic and structural failures.  Mr. Hipple’s article was a valiant effort at addressing one of these issues, but it is exceptionally difficult to frame the problem appropriately so as to address the relevant factors at appropriate depth while not missing necessary nuance and simultaneously addressing significant transnational factors.  Until the broader issues driving current conflict and instability are addressed, we are likely to see more of the same.

Timothy Baker is Marine Officer in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and a Masters Candidate at Columbia University.  The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of Columbia University, U.S. Department of Defense or the United States Marine Corps.

(Editor’s note: Another fine example of my over-simplification is the note that the map also showed “Somalia” as one unit, when in reality it is three distinct organizations each with different problems)

Balanced Public/Private Effort for West African Maritime Security

By Emil Maine and Charlotte Florance

Shifting Hot Spots

Over the past decade piracy off the coast of Somalia dominated the focus of international maritime security efforts. Recently, however, the frequency of pirate attacks in the region has dropped off—reaching their lowest point since 2006 according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s global piracy report. Although attacks continue, no large commercial vessel has been seized in the region since 2012. Meanwhile piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is surging, threatening a vital shipping lifeline for a dozen countries and targeting vessels that carry nearly 30% of all U.S. oil imports. Given the Gulf of Guinea’s strategic value, it is little surprise that concerns over the region’s growing insecurity has quickly overshadowed international interest in piracy elsewhere.

International anxieties over piracy stem from: (1) national security implications, (2) structural threat to international trade, and (3) threat to local and regional stability.

West African Militants

Apples and Oranges

Despite parallels to Somali piracy, attacks in the Gulf of Guinea take place within a different operational and political context. Piracy counter-measures are not one-size fits all. Understanding these differences is critical when exploring policy prescriptions.

Pirate attacks originating off Somalia tend to be strategic, and involve seizing ships in passage and holding their crews for high ransom. In contrast, West Africans pirates primarily focus on stealing cargo and siphoning oil. This behavioral divergence allows West African pirates to operate in the littoral, making them less vulnerable to the navy-heavy strategy credited with stemming the tide of piracy in Somalia.

Pirates in West Africa are able to take advantage of a well-established illicit political economy.  They enjoy access to pre-existing international criminal networks and close ties to the shipping industries. These benefits, accompanied by lax maritime security in the area, create an ideal environment for piracy.

Many studies note four broad factors led to piracy reductions in Somalia, and recommend the same approach in West Africa. According to a July 2013 Chatham House report, the factors are:

  1. The presence of international naval patrols in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, with the remit to disrupt and deter pirate activity.
  2. The implementation of best management practices (BMP) by the majority of commercial ship-owners with vessels passing through the high-risk area of the Indian Ocean.
  3. The presence of private armed security personnel aboard commercial ships.
  4. Regional capacity-building, particularly international support for improvements to the legal systems and prison capacities in east and southern Africa’s littoral states, allowing for increased prosecution and imprisonment of convicted pirates.

After all, these measures led to extraordinary reductions in attempted or actual hijackings in the Horn of Africa. However, distinct differences in West African political, legal, and criminal structure present new challenges that will require an adaptive approach to implementation.

Changing the Channel

In Somalia, piracy sprung from anarchy; in West Africa, it resulted from intentional efforts to expand criminal operations. Consequently, attacks are better coordinated, executed with precision, and oftentimes impossible to trace. West Africa contains several sophisticated criminal organizations with deep international ties. These networks provide pirates access to extensive intelligence–including ship schedules, cargo, and crew capability–and allows for the storage and black-market sales of pirated goods. Additionally, due to drug sales and trafficking, criminal networks wield financial leverage with local governments and militaries—undermining the rule of law. For example, earlier this year the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) reported that:

“In early April, Rear-Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, a former Chief of the Guinea-Bissau navy was caught in a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sting on board a yacht in international waters in the Atlantic. According to prosecutors, he planned to bring 3.5 tonnes of Colombian cocaine to the African country inside a shipment of military uniforms and then smuggle weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, back to Colombia’s FARC rebels.”

Rear-Admiral Tchuto was not the only example of criminal ties to West African governments. The RUSI report also notes trafficking-related charges brought against a Malian police commissioner, the former caretaker-president of Guinea Bissau, and other high-level officials.

There are certainly benefits to maritime security efforts, including the presence of private armed security personnel aboard ship, increased international naval patrols, and the implementation of BMP. These efforts are likely to reduce hijackings and attacks, and should be employed. However, in the long term effectively safeguarding maritime traffic requires a balanced public/private effort with the use of force limited to protecting commerce and maintaining freedom of the seas. Also required is an effective strategy to resolve West Africa’s troubles and establish and bolster the rule of law.

Emil Maine is a National Security Research Assistant at the Heritage Foundation, where he conducts independent research on U.S. defense posture. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own.

Charlotte Florance is a research associate at Heritage Foundation.  She studies U.S. policy toward Africa and the Middle East, concentrating on economic freedom, democratic institutions, development and security cooperation. The views and opinions expressed in this article are her own.

Nigeria’s Navy: Setting Sail in Stormy Seas


In the din of East African security issues, the navy of Africa’s most populous nation has fallen out of the international eye. With continued pressure on diversified procurement, increasing capability, and new international cooperation, Nigeria’s Navy is slowly growing to fill a void dominated by piracy, petroleum smuggling, and other criminal elements that is re-engaging international attention in Western Africa. Whereas the state of Somalia has been quite unable to manage its offshore affairs, the Nigerian Navy has plotted a course out to sea under the pall of its severe security challenges. If the challenges of oversight, funding, and collusion don’t capsize their efforts, it may become a quite fine sailing.

Procurement-Let’s Go Shopping:

Since 2009, Nigeria has been pursuing an aggressive new procurement program. During the last Nigerian naval modernization period, the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Nigeria purchased a vast number of vessels from Germany (LST’s) , France (Combattantes), the UK (Thornycraft), Italy (Lerici minesweepers), and others. Unlike the procurement processes familiar in larger navies, such those of NATO, Nigeria ran an “open-source” program, pulling already-proven foreign systems off the foreign shelf. This new buildup is similar, with some new attempt to build local ship-building capacity.

NNS Thunder, the former USCG Chase
NNS Thunder, the former USCG Chase

The three big ticket “ship of the line” purchases are the 2 “Offshore Patrol Vessels” and the NNS Thunder. The NNS Thunder is the old school “off the shelf” style ship purchase, bringing a Hamilton-class High Endurance Cutter, the ex-USCG Chase, into Nigerian service in 2011. The “Offshore Patrol Vessels” were commissioned with China Industry Shipbuilding Corporation and approved for purchase by President Jonathan in April of 2012. The fleet’s major combatant until the NNS Thunder was the NNS Aradu, an over 30 year old vessel and Nigeria’s only aviation-capable ship. The new contenders will add a total of 5 new 76mm Oto Melara’s added to the fleet, a none too shabby improvement of overall firepower for littoral operations. The 45 (NNS Thunder)/ 20 (OPV’s) day endurance will give the Nigerian Navy an impressive new stay-time for continuous at-sea opeartions. Arguably most important is that all three vessels have maritime aviation capabilities that will greatly expand the reach and ISR component of Nigerian maritime operations. These three ships are right on target to fill critical gaps in Nigeria’s capabilities.

Nigerian Navy Shaldag mk III
Nigerian Navy Shaldag mk III

Nigeria’s littoral squadrons are also scheduled for improvement. Nigeria is purchasing several brown-green water patrol craft to bolster her much-beleaguered inshore security where smuggling of all kinds is rife. Singaporean Manta’s and Sea Eagle’s, US Defender’s, Israeli Shaldag Mk III’s, and others will add potent brown and green water assets to Nigeria’s toolbox.

On small ship for a ship, one large ship for Nigerian Shipbuilding kind.
On small ship for a ship, one large ship for Nigerian Shipwright kind.

However, not all of Nigeria’s purchases are imports. Thi package also begins the cultivation of indigenous ship-building capability. One of the aforementioned OPV’s is scheduled for 70% of its construction to occur in Nigeria. To more fanfare, the NNS Andoni was commissioned in 2012. Designed by Nigerian engineers and produced locally with 60% locally sourced parts, it is considered a good step forward for building local expertise and capability in the realm of the shipwrights. More local capacity and expertise will further increase the ease with which ships bought locally, or abroad, can be maintained.

-But Avoid the Bait and Switch!

While flexible, this off-the-shelf model can lead to some bad dealings either by vendors or government buyers. Flexible US defense procurement specialists would love more unilateral authority and oversight compared to their gilded cage of powerpoint nightmares. However, the opposite can lead to incredibly terrible purchasing decisions. While Nigeria’s 2 OPV’s are running for current a total cost of $42m, a proposal was made to purchase one 7 year old vessel for $65m dollars. That vessel had a further $25m in damage that needed to be repaired. That particular vessel now sails as the KNS Jasiri after a large financing scandal of several years ended. At the time of delivery it appeared completely unarmed as well, though since it has since had weapons installed.  If one were to ask why Nigeria would want to buy a single unarmed vessel with no aviation capability for the price of 4 more gunned-up and helo-ready OPV’s, the answer is probably not a “clean” one. Oversight is going to continue to be an issue in a country with one of the bottom corruption ratings.

Capability- Shooting more, shooting together :

Popped collars, midriff, and tiny shorts? Worst pirates EVER!
Popped collars, midriff, and tiny shorts? Worst pirates EVER!

Ships are all well and good, but what matters is what you do with them and how. Though the scale of offshore criminality is likely in total hovering around 10 billion, and the entire naval budget is roughly a half billion, the Nigerian Navy is moving more aggressively to course-correct their coastal regions. Several instances include a successful gun battle in August, ending the careers of six pirates, further arrests for oil theft in september, and a nice little capture of pirates in August for which photo opportunities were ensured for the press. The Nigerian Navy is further attempting to extend the “immediacy” of their reach by establishing Forward Operating Bases, like the ones at Bayelsa and Delta states. These and many other instances are the nickles-and-dimes as the Nigerian Navy chips away at the corners of their behemoth security challenge at sea. Every journey begins with a single step, and though the Nigerian Navy has reached a bit of a trot, they have a long way to go. But even in the Navy, no man is an island. With a limited budget and math-rough half of the budget going to the army, the Nigerian Navy needs support. The civil and military authorities are moving closer to that “joint” model with the Memorandum of Understanding between the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the use of NAF assets in Anti-Piracy operations. With an existing MoU between NIMASA, this creates further points of coordination between civil, naval, and air force assets in a coordinated battle against criminals at sea. It’s no J3/J5 shop, but it’s a start.

-But Don’t Undershoot!

The Nigerian Navy’s take from the $5.947bn defense budget is a cool $445m. This is a continued increase for both the defense budget overall and the navy budget specifically and is expected to continue increasing. While this is all well and good, the Nigerian Navy faces a criminal enterprise worth billions: Piracy ($2bn), Oil Theft: ($8bn), and others. The Nigerian Navy itself has a way to go with shoring up its vast body of small arms, ammunition, and gear. In 2012,  a fact-finding mission by members of the Nigerian senate found an appalling state of affairs in regards to equipment shortages, maintenance, and a whole slew of other steady-state problems. Enthusiasm and new ships can only go so far. The Nigerian Navy needs to spend the extra money to shore up their flanks, refurbishing or replacing their vast stock of older ships, weapons, equipment, and ordnance stores (without forgetting training).

Cooperation- Team Player: 4026984_orig

Nigeria is no stranger to international cooperation. Many forget that in August 26th, 1996, ECOMOG (under ECOWAS) actually conducted an amphibious assault into Liberia led by Nigerian military units. From peacekeeping in Liberia, to Sierra Leone, to Darfur, to Mali, etc… etc… Nigeria troops have been a staple of many peacekeeping efforts. Now, their typical face abroad, the boots on the ground, is pulling back to the homeland to fight Boko Haram. However, the navy is still extending its project to integrate into partnership programs through both engagement at home and extending the hand abroad. Nigeria is an active catalyst of the regional security regime. For one, ECOWAS is a factor at sea as well as land. At an ECOWAS conference ending 9 OCT, the naval chiefs of Nigeria, Niger, Benin, and Togo agreed to a common “modality” for the combating of terrorism and agreed to set up a “Maritime Multinational Coordination Center” in Benin to coordinate security efforts. It also doesn’t hurt to host the maiden run of a major procurement/policy forum in your continent, namely the “Offshore Patrol Vessels Conference” for hundreds of African and interested parties. Networking, though an intangible product, is an important way of building institutional strength and connections. Nigeria also engages with US and NATO training missions, like the most recent Operation African Wind: a training exercise for the Armed Forces of Nigeria and other regional militaries in conjunction with the Netherlands Maritime Forces under the auspices of the United States sponsored African Partnership Station. In Lagos and Calabar, units will learn about sea-borne operations, jungle combat, amphibious raids, etc… over 14 days of training and 4 days of exercises. Finally, Nigeria’s navy has made a very respectable show of striking out by conducting a “world tour” of sorts with the new NNS Thunder. The NNS Thunder made a tour around Africa before crossing the Indian Ocean for an historic visit to Australia this month for International Fleet Week. The Nigerian Navy seems determined not to remain shackled by their previous bad position, and is aggressively pursuing an expanded mission and self-image through more than just procurement. Despite the challenges ahead, they’ve demonstrated a reach few of their continental compatriots can lay claim to. It may not help against pirates, but it should be a fine addition to espirit de corps.

-But Also Collusion, Not Always the Right Team…

BURN! Someone call a trauma unit!
BURN! Someone call a trauma unit!

However, while the navy coordinates with foreign navies, some officials in Nigeria coordinate with the criminal elements. Such “industrial scale” theft of oil in particular would be impossible without the involvement of at least some security officials and politicians. The wide-spread collusion helps stall policies designed to curb the vast hemorrhaging of wealth, since the wealth is hemorrhaging to some with influence on the levers of power. This collusion is further muddled by the revelations about government payments to stop oil theft. While a pay-off policy might be effective in the short term, as it has been in Honduras, the long-term promise is muddled, especially if it turns off the money spigot to those receiving graft.  While corruption has improved since the end of the patronage-heavy military state, some see very little hope at all: from the luxurious government salaries to wholesale theft from government coffers. Whatever the case, even local perceptions of transparency are depressingly negative. If internal collusion with the criminal underground cannot be controlled, the Nigerian navy will never find itself with truly enough allies to defeat the foe some of their leaders look to for wallet-padding.

Right Course, Add More Steam:

The Nigerian Navy is making good progress. With new ships, expanded operations, and continued engagement the bow is pointed in the right direction. However, without maintaining the engineroom and navigational equipment by battling corruption and putting enough fuel in the diesels by increasing their defense budget, the Nigerian Navy will find itself floundering in the storm.

Matthew Hipple is a surface warfare officer and graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is Director of the NEXTWAR blog and hosts of the Sea Control podcast. His opinions may not reflect those of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or US Government. Did he mention he was host of the Sea Control podcast? You should start listening to that.

East Africa: More Than Just Pirates

The challenges facing East African maritime security are many, and without viable measures taken to combat growing sea-born threats, the region is destined to remain in a state of instability and war. The absence of a formidable naval power in the area has allowed illicit smuggling activity to flourish in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, and has also allowed state and non-state actors to manipulate the lawlessness to their own advantage, leading to increased insecurity in the region.  Looking past East Africa’s most publicized maritime problem, piracy, I would like to discuss two equally threatening, but less well-known issues, currently inhibiting its stability.

Illicit Trafficking

The first major issue that arises due to inadequate regional naval capabilities is the widespread smuggling of illicit arms, drugs and people into, out of and throughout East African countries. The influx of drugs, munitions and other illicit goods, arm and fund terrorist organizations and militias not only on Africa’s Eastern coast but in the rest of the continent as well. Somalia’s al Shabaab, Kenya’s al Shabaab affiliate, al Hijra, and the Congolese rebel group M23, are all examples of groups sustained through illegal maritime smuggling.

Weapons enter the region not just through the vulnerable Gulf of Aden and the Somali coastline, but also through considerably more stable and peaceful countries like Kenya and Seychelles. Once ashore, illicit materials easily find their way through the hands of corrupt government officials to destabilizing, violent actors. New intelligence estimates point to growing cross continental smuggling networks between groups like al Shabaab and North Africa’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, heightening the importance for a secure Eastern shore.

Human trafficking, another dangerous issue, further highlights the permeable nature of the regions’ maritime borders. According to the International Organization for Migration, in the first four months of 2012, 43,000 migrants traveled from East Africa, through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, to Yemen. This constant flow of migrants in and out of the region allows for a massive human smuggling market.

In recent news, there have been reports of the success of the NATO fleet in reducing piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. But under Operation Ocean Shield, NATO vessels are strictly tasked with counter-piracy measures and are unable to intervene in the practice of illicit trafficking occurring in those same bodies of water. While good work is being done to prevent piratical attacks, illegal smuggling of people, munitions, and other goods remains unchecked.

Kenya’s Unilateral Maritime Power and its Consequences

It's hard being best on the block.
It’s hard being best on the block.

The second problem that surfaces is due to an uneven balance of power. Kenya possesses the overwhelming naval advantage in the region, allowing it hegemonic rule over maritime boundaries. Kenya has 23 ships in its fleet, which were mainly acquired through Western allies such as the United States, France, Spain and Great Britain. Kenya’s offensive capabilities are limited and its fleet only has two amphibious assault vessels, which were most recently used to attack the terrorist-held Somali city of Kismayo in September 2012. While the Kenyan fleet is small when compared to international standards, it is far more powerful than any other East African country.

Kenya’s Southern neighbor, Tanzania, has a navy that consists of seven attack vessels and twelve patrol vessels obtained from the Chinese between 1969-1971. Tanzania’s navy is effectively untested and would likely be unable to engage in any meaningful military action to secure its coastline. To Kenya’s north, Somalia has no navy to speak of, and has been reliant on the Kenyan naval power in helping secure key al Shabaab stronghold’s along Somalia’s Southern coast.

The absence of another equal, or at least, threatening East African power in the Indian Ocean allows Kenya to exert undue control over its maritime neighbors. Kenya and Somalia are in the middle of a maritime border dispute that is currently leaning in favor of Kenya. The Somali government believes the border should be drawn perpendicular to the coastline, whereas the Kenyan government wants the border to be drawn along the line of latitude. Complicating the issue are potential underwater oil reserves and existing oil licenses granted by both countries for exploration in the disputed area. Kenya continues to push for exploration agreements with private companies, despite the inability of the two countries to delineate an agreeable maritime boundary, aggravating an already tense relationship.

Further irritating Kenyan and Somali border relations, are corrupt Kenyan Navy officials who have taken advantage of Somalia’s fledgling central government and have begun to encroach on its sovereignty. A UN report released in July 2013, asserted that following al Shabaab’s defeat in Kismayo, the Kenyan Navy took over control of the port. It now controls all goods coming into and going out of Kismayo, and corrupt Kenyan officials collect revenues from the port that should instead be managed by the Somali government. Kenyan Navy personnel even flouted the UN ban on charcoal exports from Kismayo, despite protestations from the Somali government and international organizations.

Kenya’s unilateral maritime power allows corrupt individuals to adhere to their own rules of engagement and many times disregard international norms, infringing on neighboring countries’ maritime, and land-based sovereignty. This severely threatens stability in the region as this manipulation of power creates tenuous and volatile relationships with other East African nations and the international community.

The First Steps

When thinking of possible solutions to help increase naval power and maritime security in East Africa, it is hard to imagine viable near-term options. Some governments have taken steps to try to address maritime vulnerabilities. Kenya passed a law in 2010 formerly recognizing human trafficking as a crime. Also in 2010, the semi-autonomous Somali state of Puntland established the Puntland Maritime Police Force. It was first created as an anti-piracy body but it has had some success in intercepting arms, drugs and human smugglers. These measures are good first steps, but broader, regionally agreed upon action must be taken.

It is hard, however, for these countries’ governments to justify spending money to secure their nations’ maritime borders, when the there is no certainty of peace on land. But of course, it is necessary to understand that without maritime stability, that peace cannot be assured.

Breuk previously worked at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, and published articles on issues relating to security in the Horn of Africa. She received her B.A. in International and Comparative Politics from Brown University and is currently studying in North Africa.