SPECIAL REPORT: Somalia’s Coast Guard Program in Perilous Waters

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA NOVEMBER 21st 2014 (Somali Agenda) – Somalia’s nascent coast guard last month officially took delivery of four patrol boats in Mogadishu. The boats donated by the Turkish government marks the first time the country has provided military hardware to Somalia since the signing of a landmark military agreement between the two nations under the previous Sharif administration in 2010. On August 2013, the Federal Parliament approved the agreement.

The agreement paved the way for Turkish training and equipping of Somalia’s security forces. Turkey has already trained ten members of Somalia’s Coast Guard with another batch expected to leave for Turkey soon.

Since arriving in April of this year, the boats have been kept in storage at Mogadishu’s port due to the lack of proper docking facilities for the coast guard. The government of the United Arab Emirates recently built Somalia’s coast guard a new temporary command center close to Mogadishu’s International Port.

The boats are equipped with modern communication equipment and geared towards long-range patrols. SOMALI AGENDA could not verify the make or model of these boats.

The boats are equipped with modern communication equipment and geared towards long-range patrols. SOMALI AGENDA could not verify the make or model of these boats.

However, a new interagency competition and legal tussle between the country’s National Security Ministry and the department of the Coast Guard threatens to disrupt and put the very existence of Somalia’s nascent coast guard in question. SOMALI AGENDA has independently obtained a letter written by General Khalif Ahmed Erag, Somalia’s Federal Minister for National Security.

The letter written on November 14th, 2014 and addressed to Somalia’s international partners and donors attempts to explain in broad terms the jurisdiction of the ministry’s department of Counter-terrorism and Maritime security on all issues pertaining to maritime issues in the country bypassing and in essence abolishing the country’s coast guard.

The letter makes two key points: 1) the development of National Maritime Resource and Security has been at “standstill due to many actors in Mogadishu claiming to have a stake and be an authority of this issue which has confused our international partners,” and 2) proposes the creation of a new Maritime Police Force.

Letter by General Khalif Ahmed Erag

General Khalif Erag’s claims are aggressively refuted by senior officers in the country’s Military contacted by SOMALI AGENDA. They point that the maritime police which General Khalif envisions to create have by law jurisdiction over local issues not international issues such as piracy and maritime security.

The creation of a Maritime Police Force is seen as a direct intervention in Somali Military affairs. The protection of maritime borders has been the main task of the Somali Navy, the predecessor of the current coastguard, the sources underscore.

The Department of Counter-Terrorism and Maritime Security was originally set up as the Department of Counter-Terrorism within the Ministry of National Security by Somalia’s former National Security Minister Abdikarim Guled who resigned in May of this year following Al Shabab’s bold assault on the country’s federal parliament.

It is chiefly funded by the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime and is led by a Somali-American by the name of Abdiaziz Shire who is related to both Ministers Abdikarim Guled and General Khalif Erag.

The modest and temporary HQ of the Country's Coast Guard build with assistance from the United Arab Emirates is located near Mogadishu's International Port.

The modest and temporary HQ of the Country’s Coast Guard built with assistance from the United Arab Emirates is located near Mogadishu International Port.

Somalia’s security leadership has on numerous occasions been accused of excessive corruption and diversion of funds meant for the country’s security institutions. In October of this year, colonel Osman Elmi Gure was arrested at the orders of the country’s Army Chief General Dahir Adan “Indho Qaarshe” after he made a poem criticizing the military leadership of embezzling the salaries of the troops.

International aid and support for Somalia’s security institutions have provided some in the country’s security and political leadership unique opportunities to divert funds for their own personal use. This culture of corruption is particularly strong in the intelligence department and security ministry. Critics say General Khalif Erag’s latest attempt to be another ploy to tap into the lucrative anti-piracy portfolio.

Anti-piracy operations in Somalia have seen strong investments by the international community in particular by the United Arab Emirates which was instrumental in the creation of Puntland’s Maritime Police Force. Saracen International which was contracted by the United Arab Emirates to train and equip the Puntland Maritime Police Force was notorious for its torture and murder of Somali trainees. A United Nations Investigation Group found the actions of Saracen International not only inhumane and the creation of the Puntland Maritime Police Force as a, “brazen, large-scale and protracted violation” of the arms embargo.” Sources tell SOMALI AGENDA that during a recent anti-piracy summit in the United Arab Emirates, the Somali Federal Government failed to win funding due to the absence of any maritime legal framework which will legitimize funding.

General Khalif Erag’s plans to establish a Maritime Police Force also coincides with maritime border dispute between Somalia and Kenya. Security experts contacted by SOMALI AGENDA claim that Somalia’s Federal Government has capitulated to pressures from neighboring countries to rollback its Coast Guard Program.

The United States ambassador to Ethiopia Patricia M. Haslac this week announced a new visa class for landlocked Ethiopian Maritime professionals at the Ethiopian Maritime Training Institute. The security experts contacted by SOMALI AGENDA assert that the convergence of these developments best explain General Khalif Erag’s latest strategy. They further point out that legally a Maritime Police Force will considerably lack the legal framework to adequately fulfill the current role played by the Somali Coast Guard.

The latest tussle between the Coast Guard and the Ministry of National Security comes at a time Somalia is marred by yet another political infighting between the country’s President and Prime Minister. It is not clear whether General Khalif Erag who is allied to Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has the support of the Prime Minister in his new initiative.

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