This article argues that since 2005, the global security discourse has confused maritime piracy off the Horn of Africa with terrorism. US and European policymakers and financiers have tapped a vulnerable public imaginary to exaggerate Somali pirates as ‘maritime terrorists’ linked to Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda, driving the militarization and legal obfuscation of counter-piracy operations. And while Somali piracy has all but disappeared since 2013, international naval coalitions remain deployed in the Indian Ocean, which is still declared a war risk area. The discursive conflation of piracy and terrorism has thereby launched a tactical War on Piracy that mirrors the War on Terror. While pirates were active, this approach pushed them to become more daring and dangerous in response. Drawing on interviews with piracy stakeholders in Kenya, the article concludes that the tactical extension from counter-terrorism to counter-piracy is unresponsive to the origins, motives, and realities of Somali pirates. The article proposes a shift from military to developmental responses to countering and preventing piracy, with an emphasis on respecting local institutions of law enforcement and governance in Somalia.

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doi.org/10.1177/0967010616665275, hdl.handle.net/1765/93562
Security Dialogue
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Singh, C., & Bedi, A. S. (2016). War on Piracy: The conflation of Somali piracy with terrorism in discourse, tactic, and law. Security Dialogue, 47(5), 440–458. doi:10.1177/0967010616665275