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Somalia - You Are Being Lied To About Pirates
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Somalia - You Are Being Lied To About Pirates prije 8 godine, 7 mjeseci #1431

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Somalia - You Are Being Lied To About Pirates

February 4, 2009, San Francisco Bay View

Who imagined that in 2009, the world’s governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the U.S. to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth.

But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as “one of the great menaces of our times” have an extraordinary story to tell - and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the “golden age of piracy” - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: Pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can’t?

In his book “Villains of All Nations,” the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London’s East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the cat o’ nine tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls “one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the 18th century.”

They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed “quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy.” This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.

The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: “What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live.”

In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its 9 million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the U.N. envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no cleanup, no compensation and no prevention.”

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas.

The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”

This is the context in which the men we are calling “pirates” have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia - and it’s not hard to see why.

In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters … We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas.” William Scott would understand those words.

No, this doesn’t make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Program supplies. But the “pirates” have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defense of the country’s territorial waters.”

One of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters … We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas.”

During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America’s founding fathers paid pirates to protect America’s territorial waters, because they had no navy or coast guard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn’t act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, we begin to shriek about “evil.” If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gunboats to root out Somalia’s criminals.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarized by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know “what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.” The pirate smiled and responded: “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor.”

Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?

Re:Somalia - You Are Being Lied To About Pirates prije 8 godine, 7 mjeseci #1432

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Somalis speak out: Why we don’t condemn our pirates

April 13, 2009, San Francisco Bay View

“As the first pirate attack on a U.S. ship in 200 years comes to a climax, I’m re-posting an essay I solicited and received several weeks ago from K’naan, a Somali-Canadian singer and activist. A video of a performance by K’naan that I filmed at the All Points West music festival last summer (can be seen here).” - Michael Vazquez, editor at URB. Don’t miss Davey D’s unforgettable interview with K’naan, parts 1 and 2, recorded April 12 and posted in the Bay View video section.


Can anyone ever really be for piracy? Outside of sea bandits, and young girls fantasizing about Johnny Depp, would anyone with an honest regard for good human conduct really say that they are in support of sea robbery?

Well, in Somalia, the answer is: It’s complicated.

The news media these days have been covering piracy on the Somali coast with such lopsided journalism that it’s lucky they’re not on a ship themselves. It’s true that the constant hijacking of vessels in the Gulf of Aden is a major threat to the vibrant trade route between Asia and Europe. It is also true that for most of the pirates operating in this vast shoreline, money is the primary objective.



A blogger at Multitunes calls K’naan “the hope of politically conscious rap” and quotes one of his favorite K’naan lines: “Until the lion learns to speak, the tales of the hunt will always favor the hunter.”



The crew of the hijacked Ukrainian merchant vessel MV Faina stand on the deck under the watch of armed Somali pirates looking as relaxed as if they were one big happy family on Nov. 9, 2008, after a U.S. Navy request to check on their health and welfare, at sea off the coast of Somalia. The Faina, loaded with Russian tanks and artillery, had been seized by the pirates in September. The pirates have never harmed anyone on the ships they’ve seized.





But according to so many Somalis, the disruption of Europe’s darling of a trade route is just Karma biting a perpetrator in the butt. And if you don’t believe in Karma, maybe you believe in recent history. Here is why we Somalis find ourselves slightly shy of condemning our pirates.

Somalia has been without any form of a functioning government since 1991. And although its failures, like many other toddler governments in Africa, spring from the wells of post-colonial independence, bad governance and development loan sharks, the specific problem of piracy was put in motion in 1992.

After the overthrow of Siyad Barre, our charmless dictator of 20-some-odd years, two major forces of the Hawiye Clan came to power. At the time, Ali Mahdi and Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid, the two leaders of the Hawiye rebels, were largely considered liberators. But the unity of the two men and their respective sub-clans was very short-lived. It’s as if they were dumbstruck at the advent of ousting the dictator, or that they just forgot to discuss who will be the leader of the country once they defeated their common foe.

A disagreement of who will upgrade from militia leader to Mr. President broke up their honeymoon. It’s because of this disagreement that we’ve seen one of the most decomposing wars in Somalia’s history, leading to millions displaced and hundreds of thousands dead.

But war is expensive and militias need food for their families and Jaad (an amphetamine-based stimulant) to stay awake for the fighting.

Therefore, a good clan-based warlord must look out for his own fighters. Aidid’s men turned to robbing aid trucks carrying food to the starving masses and re-selling it to continue their war. But Ali Mahdi had his sights set on a larger and more unexploited resource, namely the Indian Ocean.

Already by this time, local fishermen in the coastline of Somalia had been complaining of illegal vessels coming to Somali waters and stealing all the fish. And since there was no government to report it to, and since the severity of the violence clumsily overshadowed every other problem, the fishermen went completely unheard.



This barrel, once filled with toxic – possibly radioactive – waste, washed ashore in Somalia after the 2005 tsunami. The Times of London reported online in March 2005 that the tsunami “stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste illegally dumped” off the coast of Somalia.





But it was around this same time that a more sinister, a more patronizing practice was being put in motion. A Swiss firm called Achair Partners and an Italian waste company called Progresso made a deal with Ali Mahdi that they were to dump containers of waste material in Somali waters. These European companies were said to be paying warlords about $3 a ton, whereas to properly dispose of waste in Europe costs about $1,000 a ton.

In 2004, after a tsunami washed ashore several leaking containers, thousand of locals in the Puntland region of Somalia started to complain of severe and previously unreported ailments, such as abdominal bleeding, skin melting off and a lot of immediate cancer-like symptoms. Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environmental Program, says that the containers had many different kinds of waste, including “uranium, radioactive waste, lead, cadmium, mercury and chemical waste.”

But this wasn’t just a passing evil from one or two groups taking advantage of our unprotected waters. The U.N. envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, says that the practice still continues to this day. It was months after those initial reports that local fishermen mobilized themselves, along with street militias, to go into the waters and deter the Westerners from having a free pass at completely destroying Somalia’s aquatic life.

Now, years later, the deterring has become less noble, and the ex-fishermen with their militias have begun to develop a taste for ransom at sea. This form of piracy is now a major contributor to the Somali economy, especially in the very region that private toxic waste companies first began to bury our nation’s death trap.

Now Somalia has upped the world’s pirate attacks by over 21 percent in one year, and while NATO and the EU are both sending forces to the Somali coast to try and slow down the attacks, Blackwater and all kinds of private security firms are intent on cashing in.

But while Europeans are well within their rights to protect their trade interest in the region, our pirates were the only deterrent we had from an externally imposed environmental disaster. No one can say for sure that some of the ships they are now holding for ransom were not involved in illegal activity in our waters.

The truth is, if you ask any Somali, if getting rid of the pirates only means the continuous rape of our coast by unmonitored Western vessels and the producing of a new cancerous generation, we would all fly our pirate flags high.

It is time that the world gave the Somali people some assurance that these Western illegal activities will end if our pirates are to cease their operations. We do not want the EU and NATO serving as a shield for these nuclear waste-dumping hoodlums.

“The truth is, if you ask any Somali, if getting rid of the pirates only means the continuous rape of our coast by unmonitored Western vessels and the producing of a new cancerous generation, we would all fly our pirate flags high. … [O]ne man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard.” - K’naan

It seems to me that this new modern crisis is truly a question of justice, but also a question of whose justice. As is apparent these days, one man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard.

Somalis are defending their land and shores



A Somali pirate stands guard on the coast of Hobyo, where his compatriots were holding the Greek tanker MV CPT Stephanos last October. According to early reports, the three Somali pirates killed by the U.S. Navy Sunday were teenagers – 16-19 years old.





As for the “pirates” of Somalia, it is an encouraging case but also a very sad one. According to some, these so called “pirates” are professional Somalis with different careers behind them; that is, most of them were doctors, engineers, pilots, computer scientists, professors and so on.

I was told by a friend of mine that these ex-professional Somalis were converted to their new job when foreign big boats started clearing their shores, that is, their sea products, different types of fish and sea food. Some of the big international ships come to the Somali seashores in order to dump their toxic waste.

The Somalis are defending their land and their shores, I think very bravely. But it worries me to see that the U.S. and Europeans - the French in particular - are working actively to occupy Somalia.

The world is tired about their terrorist lies, so they are coming to occupy Somalia in the name of “pirates.” Believe me, the Somalis will fight until one person is left in their land.

This is a simple African woman’s opinion.

Renowned historian Runoko Rashidi shared this email message he received April 11, 2009. It is signed, “Your Sister in the Horn of Africa.”

EU firms should stop toxic dumping off Somalia

by Abdimajid Osman



Andrew Mwangura, head of the East African Seafarers’ Assistance Program, tells reporters Dec.10, 2008, that the piracy problem in Somali cannot be solved through military means, as the pirates are driven by poverty after their waters were depleted by illegal fishing and toxic dumping. To end piracy, the world should sit down with the influential clan elders and Islamists instead of wasting money on military build-ups at sea and holding expensive conferences on piracy.





The European Union’s defense ministers launched on Nov. 10, 2008, an anti-piracy mission called “Atalanta” off the coast of Somalia.

The bloc claims that the goal of the enterprise is “to escort the World Food Program’s humanitarian convoys to Somalia and to contribute to the improvement of maritime security off the Somali coast as part of the European Union’s overall action to stabilize Somalia.”

More recently, the EU pushed for a U.N. Security Council resolution that was adopted on Dec. 2 to allow member states to fight pirates off the coast of Somalia.

French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert expressed his satisfaction with the resolution because: “Piracy is killing. Every day more than 3 million Somali people are depending on food aid, on emergency relief, which comes - 95 percent of it - by sea.”

In a time when Somalia is experiencing one of its most serious humanitarian crises ever, one would think that the unexpected determination and speed of the EU in deploying military muscle in the region should be welcomed by the Somali people.

But unfortunately, Atalanta looks like another disappointing duplicity toward the war-torn nation. Doubts hang over whether the EU is genuinely keen to help the people of Somalia in their desperate search for peace and stability.

Securing supply of oil

Two factors undermine the credibility of the EU’s operation in Somalia. Firstly, the main goal of the mission seems to be to secure the supply of goods and oil to the rich countries in the West.

In the past, the European Union resolutely rejected repeated calls from the African Union and Somalia’s neighbors to deploy peacekeeping forces in the country.

The rise of piracy on Somalia’s waters has suddenly ignited a spark in the corridors of EU decision makers, after the hijacking of a large Saudi oil tanker reminded the Western world of the vulnerability of maritime trade at a time of financial crisis.

The organization Refugees International (RI) criticized, recently, this global hypocrisy toward Somalia. The RI stated that “the speed and resolve with which piracy has been addressed by the U.N. Security Council underlines Somali sentiment that economic interests trump humanitarian concerns.”

Secondly, the EU’s inability or unwillingness to stop and punish the European-owned companies that have for many years been dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast seriously undermines the ethical claims of the new EU endeavor.

Toxic waste



This ship, the Red Jolly, is reported by both Somalinet and Somalitalk as having dumped toxic waste in Somalia’s waters.





In 1996, when I was in the northern autonomous region, Puntland, in Somalia, there was already a widespread fear that foreign ships were taking advantage of the collapse of the Somalian state by using the nation’s waters as a refuse dump.

When the tsunami of 2004 hit the country, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that many waste containers washed up on the coast of Puntland. It is now widely understood that European companies are systematically dumping toxic waste in these waters.

U.N. special envoy for Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah has in the past few months repeatedly sounded the alarm about illegal fishing and toxic dumping off Somalia by European firms.

Abdullah said that his organization has “reliable information” that European and Asian companies are dumping the waste - including nuclear waste - in this region.

The European Union has responded to these allegations with silence.

At a press conference on Dec. 2, following the U.N. Security Council resolution on Somalia, a reporter from Inner City Press asked Ambassador Ripert of France, which holds the EU’s presidency, about how the waste issue will be dealt with.

The ambassador answered: “I have no comment on the issue.”

There is now a fear that, if the EU clears Somali waters of pirates, European waste-dumping firms will inherit a safe haven to exercise their criminal and immoral activities.

If Europe wants to help the unfortunate people of Somalia, the most responsible and credible way to start would be stop and punish those companies.

In the long term, the union should also develop a comprehensive plan for the restoration of peace and stability in the country.

The Somali-born author is a chemist at Linkoping University Hospital, Sweden and can be contacted at Ova e-mail adresa je zaštićena od spam robota, nije vidljiva ako ste isključili JavaScript . This story first appeared at EUObserver.com on Dec. 8, 2008.

Editor’s note: To learn more about toxic dumping in Somalia, read “Somalia’s secret dumps of toxic waste washed ashore by tsunami” and “‘Toxic waste’ behind Somali piracy.” Many sources report overfishing by European fleets off both the east and west coasts of Africa. “The sea is being emptied,” said scientist Moctar Ba.

People & Power: ‘The toxic truth’

“Toxic Truth” reports on an investigation into illegal waste disposal in Somalia that led to murder. Watch this and other People & Power videos here.
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