Raising awareness against piracy in Puntland
February 12, 2013
The international response to the problem of large-scale piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the Eastern coast of the Somali Region has been mostly military. However, a local initiative demonstrated that this is not the only answer. Last summer, the mobile Audio-Visual Unit (mAVU) of Interpeace’s local partner in Puntland, the Puntland Development and Research Center (PDRC), showed what could be achieved with an awareness-raising campaign at the community level.
Travelling more than 2,000 km on bad or non-existent roads, the mAVU reached out to thousands of people in remote communities of four districts in the coastal areas with a campaign stressing the dangers of piracy. A short film produced by PDRC showcases the highlights of this anti-piracy campaign and features the reactions of some of the audience members.
Targeting the most vulnerable groups
Given the political and economic hardships people in the Somali Region are facing, many young men are drawn to piracy as a way to earn a living. “You are the country’s future, but pirates try to lure you,” a primary school teacher warned his students. “They promise you prosperity, but whoever follows them will only despair.”
With particular emphasis on sensitizing youth, the campaign aimed not only to raise awareness about the drawbacks of piracy, but also to foster public discussion on the subject and encourage the population to take a stand against piracy. Besides showings of the 20-minute film on an inflatable screen, the public outreach scheme also made use of educational forums, workshops and radio programmes. Flyers, posters and stickers were also disseminated in order to spread the anti-piracy messages.
Piracy affects everyone
The short film which was screened in the villages emphasized the fact that despite its promises of easy profit, piracy has a negative impact on everyone in one way or the other. It is a cause of insecurity for the population of the coastal areas, particularly those who depend on fishing for their livelihoods. “A few months ago, three men went fishing and never came back,” said a resident of Elaayo, on the northern coast of Puntland. The pirate attacks on international ships have also led to a strong military presence in the region, which is extremely disquieting for local inhabitants.
Piracy has also had devastating economic repercussions. “Piracy has caused serious inflation,” a resident of Jariban, on the eastern coast, explained. “The price of water and livestock has soared.”
After the film screenings, people are deeply concerned about the problem of piracy and are motivated to step up prevention. Abdinasir M. Yusuf, mAVU Researcher recalls: “After the screenings, mothers and fathers stood up and publicly called upon their sons to never participate in piracy activities.” The campaign clearly demonstrated that the majority of the local population is not in favour of piracy. Actively raising awareness about the drawbacks of piracy is an effective means of convincing the remaining minority not to support or join the pirate groups.
Lobsters rather than guns
In November, the mAVU continued its awareness raising campaign with a visit to the coastal town of Gara’ad, in the Jariban District. In contrast to previous years when pirates ruled the waves, this year the coastal strip between Gara’ad and Kulub is full of fishermen who dive for spiny lobsters, and companies who buy their products. All the fishermen that the team met during their tour of the region said that they had not seen pirates in their waters for more than five months. However, the importance of pursuing the awareness campaign was highlighted by the high cost of living, the lack of employment for youth and of fishing equipment, which may still tempt young people into joining the pirates.
The PDRC team also met with the elders of Gara’ad, who provided a venue and security guarantees for a screening. About 30 young men and women watched the awareness raising film, preceded by another documentary produced by PDRC about the history of the Somali Region. The elders received the team’s efforts favourably, as they strengthen the community’s own endeavours to fight piracy. They also asked for more assistance in creating jobs and increased awareness.
The trip to Gara’ad was an overall success, both in reinforcing anti-piracy messages and in assessing the situation in a location where many people would be afraid to travel. Thanks to footage recorded during the trip, PDRC and the mAVU will now spread awareness of the gains achieved in Gara’ad, and of the danger of losing them if new opportunities are not created in the area.
Made possible with the support of the European Commission and the contributions from DANIDA, Norway, Sweden, the Swiss Confederation and USAID Somalia.