Academic journal article Military Review

Somalia: The New Barbary? Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa

Academic journal article Military Review

Somalia: The New Barbary? Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa

Article excerpt

SOMALIA: The New Barbary? Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa, Martin N. Murphy, Columbia University Press, New York, 2011, 176 pages, $26.50.

Piracy, rarely mentioned in the media until the last few years, has seen ever-increasing headlines heralding ever-larger ships being seized with correspondingly ever-increasing ransoms. How did this start, and what can be done about it? Martin Murphy's Somalia: The New Barbary? Piracy and Islam in the Horn of Africa details the problem of piracy, its origins, and what factors contributed to its growth.

Murphy weaves a complex tapestry of the origins of piracy, which is by no means a new phenomenon in Somalia. During the 1950s, yachts were seized and held for ransom, and through the years, disputes over fishing rights have resulted in the seizure of foreign fishing boats for ransom. So what has created this sudden spike in piracy? Murphy suggests the increase started after the fall of Mohamed Said Barre, who was deposed in 1991. Barre's dictatorial regime was the last semi-stable Somali government, and with Barre's fall Somalia fell back into the form of government it has embraced for thousands of years--the tribal system.

Murphy argues that the current piracy spike was made possible because Somalia was a failed state unable to control its coastal waters, which allowed lawlessness to prevail and criminal elements to establish themselves. …

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