Foreign Pirates on Somali Waters?

The Maersk Alabama hijacking have dominated the news worldwide, winning the sympathy of the majority of the world’s nations. The only survivor of the 4 pirates, Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse now faces trial in New York. Muse surrendered after sustaining injuries as his three companions were killed by US Navy SEAL sharpshooters after they pointed their guns at their hostage, Captain Richard Phillips.

Condemnation of the shameful act by the pirates has been on the increase and the trial of Muse, which is going to be held in the US, has been applauded by all including Africans as the crime was committed on international waters.

The question arising is should the trial be in the US? Was it really committed on international waters? Eye brows have been raised as many are of the belief that the small petty boats employed by the Somali pirates are incapable of operating on international waters without being engulfed by the massive waves of the ocean. Many are of the opinion that the crimes are rather committed on Somali Waters.

I decided to move a step higher by investigating more on the infamous pirates, who patrol the horn of Africa,sending shivers down the spines of all, who employ that route. Are pirates not of the past? I am aware of the branding of all who go against the code with names such as ‘terrorists’, ‘hijackers’ and now the ‘pirates’.

Somalia has been a land of conflict largely fuelled by the United States. In recent times we have seen a US backed Ethiopian army forcing its way into Somalia in a so called aim to keep the peace and ‘war on terror’. Just as war works simultaneously with chaos, for decades, the Somali nation has not known peace. Poverty has been on the rise in Somalia and the government has found it tough paying its troops to guard their land.

The ability to protect one’s land is a lot easier than protecting one’s waters and hence countries that cannot secure their land definitely cannot secure their waters. Somalia could no longer fund patrols along her shoreline. This has been a source of joy to Western nations that have recognised it as easy dumping grounds for toxic material. This immoral nature of European countries has not only been observed in Somalia. It must be recollected that in 1987, toxic wastes from several Italian industries were dumped in Koko, Nigeria.

The collapse of government in Somalia resulted in the influx of massive European ships on the coast of Somalia, each with their huge barrels of waste to be dumped into the sea. Illnesses began gaining grounds amongst the coastal populations. Babies were malformed, rashes and unusual skin disorders, abdominal haemorrhages and breathing difficulties developed amongst those living there. Coastal dwellers began suffering from radiation sickness. The situation was further heightened in 2005 after the tsunami. Leaking barrels were washed ashore. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill. It was recorded that over 300 people died from these poisonous chemicals washed ashore.

Besides the dumping of waste, the Somali people have been robbed of one of their major sources of livelihood: fishing. Lots of fishing expeditions now take place on Somali waters. Somali fishermen have to compete with massive commercial fishing fleets from Europe (mainly Spain, Italy, Greece, and eventually the United Kingdom) that have exhausted their seafood reserves and now take advantage of the collapsed government in Somalia to obtain tax free fish. On several occasions, the Somali fishermen complained to the real pirates (those who rob Somalia of her livelihood). This often has resulted in fights, pouring hot boiling water on the Somalis or even going to the extent of shooting at Somali fishermen and running over the petty boats of the Somalis, who only ask that they be left alone to use their resources. Somalia losses over $300m worth of sea food annually, to the giant pirates who are taking advantage of Somalia’s unprotected seas.

This was later followed up by a complaint and appealed to the international community through the United Nations and the European Union, all of which fell upon deaf ears.

As a result of this, the Somali fishermen armed themselves and began vigilante activities, confronting illegal fishing boats as well as vessels carrying illegal toxic waste on their waters. It was later discovered that not only fishing and toxic waste activities take place here but the illegal smuggling of arms to Kenya to be later shipped to Sudan. No wonder Sudan is at war as the majority of the arm dealers obtain huge revenue from the chaos in Sudan.

It is pitiful that those who have laid down their lives as volunteers are now termed ‘pirates’ by the international community. Funny how a group known as the  ‘National Volunteer Coast Guard’ are now termed pirates while those illegally depriving the poor of their source of livelihood, those who inflict illnesses on the lives of those who have not access to standard health are now given angelic crosses. If the Somali fishermen were the ones stealing seafood from Europe, and the Europeans began their own form of volunteer Coast Guard, they would be classified under the group “social workers”.

Truly, the situation in Somalia can be solved but only by taking a neutral approach. So far, most Nations involved have taken a biased stance. The world has been relying on the United States to take a more decisive action on the situation in Somalia. This will probably not be the case as the United States has been observed to have a greater desire to retain its superpower status, which it is gradually losing as a result of the economic depression. In addition, a decisive military approach by the United States would be frowned at by the United States military as this might bring back to mind the nightmares sustained during their earlier invasion of Somalia. 

Jovi Otite

Jovi Otite (Ph.d) is the co-founder of BornBlack. He is an Animal Science Expert in Animal Reproduction, agriculture and alternative renewable energy.

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