What’s The Deal With The Pirates In Somalia
Hip-Hop artist K’NAAN explains why Somali pirates operating off the Gulf of Aden are hijacking international ships traveling through on business and pleasure.
“Most Somalis will tell you they cannot readily condemn pirates. Private companies are hired by governments to dispose of nuclear toxic waste. Since the early ’90’s, when the government of my country collapsed, these companies have illegally been dumping nuclear toxic waste containers on the shores of Somalia. It got to the United Nations Security Council, and it was ignored. These fisherman mobilized themselves, got street militiamen and brought them on board.”
Najad Abdullahi gives an in depth analysis of the current situation and especially its roots. Piracy off the Gulf of Aden has been a matter of international security for years, but the limelight has shined even brighter since the hijacking of an American aid ship and subsequent rescue of the ships Captain by the US Navy. What began as an arguably noble cause has turned into a lucrative business and a looming problem for foreign governments worldwide. Warlords began to want in on the action after realizing that ransoms were readily paid by corporations and governments for hijacked ships. The Warlords role is multi-faceted in that they have entered into agreements with large corporations, allowing them to dump toxic waste into Somali waters. In return they are paid millions of dollars. Ironically, pirates have consistently blamed the dumping of toxic waste into their waters as one of the initial and primary reasons they turned to piracy.
According to Wikipedia, the average age of the pirates is between 20-35. There are an estimated 5 pirate clans totaling 1,000 armed men who are made up of ex-militia, fishermen and technology experts.
Despite the lucrative business of piracy, Somalia remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. Many of the country’s inhabitants rely on humanitarian food aid for their everyday survival. The dumping of toxic waste into Somali waters has been confirmed and has been initiated most notably by Swiss and Italian companies for years. This realization is at the heart of the controversy. Then again, so has the confirmation of Warlords accepting payment and allowing the dumping of the waste into their country’s waters. The CIA asserts that while few battles can be won at sea, the war will ultimately be won on the beach front, the pirates base of operations. International efforts are severely limited as there is no embassy in Somalia and intelligence is non-existent.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but for the time being it’s business as usual for the pirates. The only real long-term solution I see to suppressing this problem should be centered around rooting out corruption and strengthening the government. As long as the country remains largely lawless and unstable piracy will continue as it’s been seen as opportunistic with big pay offs accompanying little risks. Somalia has no coast guard due to the failure of its government infrastructure years ago. The initial reactions from fishermen in the area are completely understandable, yet current targets of piracy have not been engaged in the maritime theft of the country’s seafood. In conclusion, understanding the roots of piracy will go a long way toward determining and coming to a logical solution to combat this complicated issue head on.