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Somalia, Firm Sign Pact to Tackle Piracy Print
Business Daily (Nairobi) - by Miano Kihu - 17 June 2008
 
The Somalia government is planning to establish its own coast guard following the signing of a security agreement between President Abdullahi Yusuf and a French private company, Secopex CSA.
The French media reported that the international security firm proposed and got the consent of the Somali government "to support maritime security in Somalia and create a coastal intelligence unit."

It has also offered to train the bodyguards of the Somali president. The "co-operation agreement", as it was described by a section of the media such as the Indian Ocean newsletter, gives the French company an exclusive mandate for 36 months to carry out its project.

The main aspects of the agreement include strengthening the Somalia customs and the maritime police through the creation of a coastguard unit to monitor and tax fishing boats operating in the Somali territorial waters; offer boats passing through a security service in return for payment; create two training centres (one in South Somalia and the other in the North); and combat piracy along the Somali coast.

President Abdullahi signed the deal with representatives of the firm last month in Paris, France. Reports from France say that the agreement is not a binding contract in that it does not oblige the Somali government to pay for Secopex's services.

Rather, the French company would source funding from international donors such as the European Union, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Secopex's services are estimated to cost Euros 50 -- 100 million a year. Secopex is a private military services company founded in 2003 by former servicemen based in Carcassonne, where the third regiment of navy infantry parachutists is based. It is currently run by former parachutist Pierre Marziali and General Jean-Pierre Perez.

The latter is a former Africa advisor to the French Army's chief of staff and has also been a military advisor to the President of the Central African Republic, François Bozize.

Secopex says its establishment was in response to the increasing demand for security services, which require specific knowledge and experience. It is the first French company to offer services in this field.

The entity is composed of specialists from elite units of the departments of defence and other government security agencies. It collaborates with an international network of specialists and recently opened an office for North Africa in Algiers.

With some 365 experts, Secopex offers a French alternative to the many American, English and South African "Private Military Companies".

The involvement of Secopex in the maritime security affairs off the Somali coast is likely to be a major relief to many shipping and fishing companies that have had to grapple with sporadic pirate attack in the zone owing to lack of stable government in the country for 17 years now.

Mombasa-based Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP) says the move is laudable as it could enhance security of vessels and crew noting that many seagoing vessels and maritime insurers have been avoiding Somali coast because of piracy problem.

"I think it is a good move, but we need to wait and see. A Canadian firm has in the past come with a similar project but it failed.

We hope things will work out this time round," said Mr Andrew Mwangura, the SAP coordinator.
 
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