Thursday, 23 April 2009

Somalia: What Feeds Piracy?

The rescue of Captain Robert Philips of Maersk Alabama from the clutch of pirates by American snipers has been taken as victory against piracy. But is it really? Piracy will still strive for two reasons: One, it is a lucrative business and Two, Somalia remains a failed state.

But who made Somalia a failed state? We need to answer this question before jumping into simple solutions and condemnations. If Afghans can grow hashish for a living, what’s wrong with Somalis using their waters to make a living? Though all these are crimes by nature, necessity and double standard are the only things to blame alongside these vices.

Under Jaalle Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia inclined to China. Barre wanted to build Somalia based on scientific socialism. Though for Barre this was a good thing to do, just like other countries that did not bend before the West's vested interests, he’d to face the consequence politically and economically. This, coupled with corruption, dictatorship and western machinations weakened his regime. He was ultimately toppled in 1991 by Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s army.

Control of Somalia was of great interest for both the US and Soviet Union by then. This created tension within Somalia especially as it’s difficult to serve two masters at a time. With the weakening of the Soviet Union, Barre switched gears to the west.

With a failed state, lawlessness and insecurity are the order of the day. Piracy allegedly begun when some Somalis discovered that some ships from South Korea, Japan and other nations were taking advantage of the failed state to illegally fish tuna in Somalia’s waters that are said to be among the world’s richest places in tuna on earth.

The Somalis, choosing not to remain passive sent some brigades to chase thieving ships away or take some bribes from them.It must be noted- Somalis are business oriented naturally. Though, a failed state, Somalia's economy has never become moribund like Zimbabwe's. Comparatively, Somalia’s a better economy than even peaceful Tanzania so to speak. The problem is lesser in magnitude compared to systemic looting going on in many African countries. If one considers the ransoms pirates are given to the amount of fish stolen from Africa's waters, they’re but a drop in the ocean.

On 9 February 2009, Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF) in conjunction with their counterparts from South African impounded a Taiwanese illegal fishing vessel in her waters. Over 100 tons of tuna were caught. This was the first anti-illegal fishing success in the history of a 48 years old nation. Though this was reported as a normal criminal incidence, if it is clinically subjected to microscopic dissection, one may crack the puzzle as to why Africa’s always been poor. It’s indeed, made poor by two factors-internal and external.

As per the price of the day of $ 8 to 10 dollars per kilo, multiply by 100 illegal vessels said to operate in the waters then by the 48 years Tanzania has been independent. This makes a simple mathematical sum of $ 3,360,000,000 (equivalent to the current budget of the US and bigger that the whole money already injected into the bailout of all rich country on Earth!). Isn’t such crime bigger than piracy when it comes to income? Who addresses it?

The weakening of African countries by rich nations so as to rob their resources is more criminal than piracy. Nature does not allow vacuum. If the world community is paying much attention onto other countries like Palestine, Afghanistan and the like, why shouldn’t Somali survive by whatever means possible? Piracy must be taken as an early wake-up call to the international community to stop its indifference, cold shoulder and bias.

Nobody’s paying any attention to Somalia until there were rumours that Al-Qaeda was consolidating itself there and when piracy became a problem to rich countries. Had those ships being preyed on belonged to poor countries, nobody would pay a damn.

These two problems are likely to awaken the international community to act decisively. It must be remembered. When the US wanted to get rid of Al-Qaeda in Somalia, it commissioned Ethiopia to do its dirty laundry little knowing it had no guts to take on and ultimately vanquish Somalia.

Why is the US pumping billions of dollars to Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan even Palestine while ignoring Somalia and Africa in general? Pirates have made their case crystal clear; will the US and its allies keep on sitting on this hot nail? Shall they dare, the economy of rich countries will be affected even much more. For the Indian Ocean, apart from being a strategic area for their security, is a commercial life line.

Though piracy is criminal, looked at otherwise, it is a political riot, in that, Africa needs to be taken as serious as other continents. What’s going on in Somalia is no different from what is currently going on in Mexico. The US used to ignore and bar Mexico.This gave birth to drug and gang related crimes. Many Americans have already lost their lives; and insecurity is swelling on the border.

To avert this danger, the US is currently pumping money into Mexico to deter drug trafficking and gang related operations just the same way it is doing in Afghanistan to bar Al-Qaeda and Taliban from taking over.

It is time that world powers remembered the Somali crisis and acted decisively. Rich countries must stop looting poor ones. Otherwise crimes such as piracy will never be rooted out.
Source: The African Executive Magazine April 22, 2009.

1 comment:

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