Who are the Real Pirates in Somalia?

7 November 2009 at 03:37 | 811 views

By Charles Quist-Adade, PhD

Sociologist Peter Berger has instructed that “The first wisdom of Sociology is that things are not what they seem.” So it is with the Western media rendition of their piracy stories from Somalia. An article in the London-based Independent newspaper has confirmed the suspicions of many that behind the Western media hysteria over on Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and Western governments’ war on “modern day piracy” lurks a sinister plot: the theft of the war-torn country’s sea food and the dumping nuclear waste in its seas by some European countries.

No, this is not one of the legions of conspiracy theories concocted on a daily basis around the globe.

According to the Independent’s, article Western governments are cynically exploiting the chaos in Somalia to the Independent, “the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen” the collapse of the Somali government in 1991 when the Siad Barre government was ousted in a military coup, “as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in [its] seas.”

“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,” the article notes.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia has charged European hospitals for dumping all manner of waste in Somali waters. He said much of the waste could be traced back to European hospitals and factories, which “seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply.

And as if that was not enough, other European ships are looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. After depleting their own fish stocks by overfishing, Europeans are now engaged in a feeding frenzy on Somali seafood as their trawlers haul tons of Somali seafood with sickening license and impunity. The Independent reports that more than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers, leaving local fishermen starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, reportedly told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters."

The Independent article explains that this is the context in which the Somali "pirates" have emerged. Somali fishermen—Volunteer Coastguards— took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers. And ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somali news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence".

While the article condemns what it termed “unjustifiable host-stage-taking” by some Somali “gangsters,” including those who have held up World Food Programme supplies, it characterized “pirate activities as self-defence,” quoting one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas."

Concluding the article declared: “Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won’t act on those crimes - the only sane solution to this problem - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world’s oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.”
“The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised 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 - but who is the robber?”

This is eerily so familiar! The Democratic Republic of Congo was plunged into fratricidal war by Western governments as they armed factions in the country’s civil war. And while the war lasts, killing five million and counting, Western mining companies looted the countries valuable minerals—coltan, diamonds, and many more.

And all this so tragic! Tragic because those same nations who pontificate and lecture to others about social justice human rights and democratic values and many times have imposed those values on others through the barrel of the gun, are the same nations who are actively starving and killing innocent Somalis and endangering the lives future generations of their offspring by polluting their waters with nuclear waste.
Even more tragic is the silence and inaction of the African Union.
Things are what they seem indeed!

About the author: Dr. Charles Quist-Adade (photo) is a Sociology professor at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He specializes in race and ethnic relations, globalization, and social justice.