Somalia has lacked effective government for the last two decades, but Somaliland - which has a coastline facing Yemen - has stronger central authority.
Until now, Somaliland has had to charge suspected pirates landed on its shores with armed robbery. Under the new legislation, piracy will carry a maximum jail term of 25 years.
“The passing of these laws proves that we are willing to cooperate with the international community,” Abdirahman Abdillahi, speaker of Somaliland’s House of Representatives, told Reuters, referring to the fight against piracy.
Piracy in the strategic sea-lanes off Somalia has evolved from a local response to illegal fishing and toxic dumping to an international criminal enterprise. While a fleet of foreign warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean regularly detain suspected pirates, many are quickly released because governments are reluctant to bring them to trial.
Some experts estimate up to 90 percent of captured pirates are turned loose. Somalia lacks the judicial or prison infrastructure to try and detain large numbers.
Up to now, regional countries like Seychelles and Kenya have carried the burden of prosecuting and jailing pirates, but they insist the load must be shared.
British Foreign Minister William Hague said earlier this month the London conference should push for the transfer of convicted pirates from regional states to Somalia as well as the development of Somalia’s maritime capacity.
Somaliland’s Interior Minister Mohamed Nur Arale told Reuters his authorities were ready to use additional external funding to beef up its fledgling anti-piracy operations.
“We want to build the capacity of the maritime police through additional equipment and training. The more their capacity is improved, the more effective their efforts to deter piracy will be, both inland and offshore,” Arale said
Rebel stronghold captured
Meanwhile truckloads of Ethiopian and Somali troops on Wednesday captured the strategic Somali city of Baidoa from al-Qaeda allied Shebab insurgents, who vowed to avenge the loss.
“We have taken control of Baidoa without a single shot, it is a great day for the people who are now welcoming us warmly,” said Muhidin Ali, a Somali government military commander in Baidoa.
Baidoa, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu, is one of the main bases of the hardline Shebab, and its capture deals a major blow to the insurgents, who control large parts of southern and central Somalia.
“The takeover does not mean that the enemy will enjoy the city, there will be more bloodshed,” said Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim, a Shebab commander.
“The areas they took will only be the graveyards of the Christian invading forces and their apostate Somali militia.”
Sporadic shooting was reported on the outskirts of the town, but residents said the city was largely calm.
“We are at the center now and moving towards every corners of the town, to ensure that we are in full control,” Ali added. “The enemy fled the city before our army has reached the town empty.”
Ethiopian troops, who moved into southern and western Somalia in November, began a major push Tuesday towards Baidoa, which hosted the transitional parliament before Islamist rebels seized the town in 2009.
The rebels are already struggling financially and face increasing pressure from regional armies and pro-government forces. The rebels still control the southern port town of Kismayo, a major source of income.
By Al Arabiya with Agencies