On 18 June, the Somaliland Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Behi Yonis, and EUCAP Nestor Head of Mission, Etienne de Poncins, signed an Agreement to set out the basis for further development of cooperative relations and activities between Somaliland and EUCAP Nestor.
EUCAP Nestor is the European Union’s maritime security capacity building mission, and has been actively engaged with Somaliland since autumn 2013. Their efforts have so far concentrated on supporting the development of Somaliland’s Coast Guard, which, despite meager resources, has been an integral part of the Government and coastal communities’ success in keeping Somaliland’s waters relatively free from piracy in a region where maritime crime is all too common.
In March 2014, the EUCAP Nestor mission opened a Field Office in Hargeisa that allows for an operational presence in Somaliland. Since then, EUCAP Nestor legal, maritime and police experts based in Nairobi and supported by the Headquarters in Djibouti, together with the leadership of Somaliland Counter Piracy Coordination (CPC) Office, Coast Guard and members of the Judiciary, have been reviewing the legal framework for the Somaliland Coast Guard and have carried out several workshops in the past months. These efforts reflect of a new approach to addressing maritime insecurity which favours support for locally-owned initiatives that build law enforcement institutions and address the root causes of maritime crimes.
Minister Yonis remarked following the signing ceremony: “I welcome the signature of this Agreement, and look forward to the increased cooperation with EUCAP Nestor, especially through the mission’s new presence here in Somaliland.“ Minister Yonis stressed that “to the Somaliland people, this Agreement represents the acknowledgement of the responsible and effective role Somaliland has played, and will continue to play, in combating the conditions of impunity which contribute to the recurrence of piracy in the region. By enhancing maritime security, Somaliland will be better able to cultivate the vast maritime resources along its 860 kilometer coast, so as to develop local livelihoods for our people and intensify economic growth throughout the region.”
The CPC Office and Ministry of Interior have been instrumental in cooperating with the EUCAP Nestor Focal Point for Somaliland to develop the Agreement and ensure the inclusive engagement of all stakeholders. These institutions will continue to lead efforts to harmonise EUCAP Nestor’s expertise and support broader efforts to address major issues facing Somaliland’s waters, including illegal fishing, waste dumping and human trafficking, and ultimately guarantee the safe passage of global trade and transport through the Gulf of Aden.
“ The Agreement signed today is a further step in our mutual relationship” says EUCAP Nestor Head of Mission, Etienne de Poncins. “ It will enable EUCAP Nestor to support Somaliland authorities on a more permanent basis and will help in realising the tasks of rebuilding the Coast Guard and Judiciary. EUCAP Nestor experts will be present in Somaliland on a rotating basis and will work together with their counterparts from the Coast Guard, Police and Judiciary to increase maritime security capacities.”
To operationalize the cooperation, a Joint Action Plan has been developed with the Somaliland CPC Office and the United Nations’ Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The newly appointed EUCAP Nestor Head of Field Office has been designated as coordinator of this Joint Action Plan.
EUCAP Nestor is a civilian EU mission, under the Common Security and Defense Policy, that assists host countries in the Horn of Africa and Western Indian Ocean region to develop a self-sustainable capacity for enhancement of the maritime security, including counter-piracy and maritime governance.
The Government of Somaliland has cooperated on maritime-related issues with EUCAP Nestor and other international bodies, including several United Nations agencies, for the past several years. Somaliland participates in Working Groups 1, 2 and 5 of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia to build local maritime security capacities, develop maritime legal frameworks and take action to disrupt piracy financing networks. The Government passed a Piracy Law and Prison Transfer Law in 2012 to regulate the apprehension, prosecution and incarceration of convicted pirates. With support from UNODC, a maximum security prison was completed in Hargeisa in 2010, and currently houses pirates transferred to Somaliland from the Seychelles as part of a bilateral memorandum of understanding.