Roots of Somali Piracy

The problem of piracy in Somalia traces its roots to economic and environmental depredations that have taken a toll on the lives of the Somali people, especially the fisherfolk.


The international community has raised the alarm over the spate of ship abductions by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, with seafarers being taken as hostages. As of this writing, there are still 92 Filipino seafarers who are in the custody of the “pirates”.

Some experts say it is the capitalist countries that have caused this problem, as they have long been doing injustice to the Somali people.

Toxic wastes + depleting water resources = piracy

Suffering from economic backwardness and virtually with no government to defend its people, the Somali coast has been the dumping site of toxic wastes from international ships passing the Gulf of Aden.

This, according to Johann Hari, a columnist for London’s Independent and who is known as an expert in Somali political affairs, had pushed the Somali people, the ones called pirates by the international community, to defend their shores.

In 2005, barrels and barrels of nuclear wastes had been washed up on the shore of Somalia after the tsunami strike, said Hari in one of his columns published in second week of April.

He said that people suffered from strange rashes, nausea and had given birth to malformed babies as a result of exposure to these toxic wastes. Later, these toxic wastes killed 300 people, he added.

The situation in Somalia was confirmed by United Nations (UN) Special Envoy to Somalia Ahmedou Ould Abdallah.

The UN Envoy had sounded the alarm, not only about the toxic wastes being dumped into the Somali seas, but also on the spate of illegal fishing in the area. “Because there is no effective government, there is so much irregular fishing from European and Asian countries,” he said in a statement.

The UN Envoy also disclosed that he had already asked several international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Global Witness, which works to break the links between natural resource exploitation, conflict, corruption, and human rights abuses worldwide, to trace the source of this illegal fishing and the illegal dumping of waste.

This phenomenon, Ould Abdallah said, helps fuel the endless civil war in Somalia as the illegal fishermen are paying corrupt Somali ministers or warlords for protection or to secure fake licenses.

The East African waters, particularly off Somalia, have huge numbers of commercial fish species, including the prized yellow fin tuna.

Reportedly, foreign trawlers use prohibited fishing equipment, including nets with very small mesh sizes and sophisticated underwater lighting systems, to lure fish to their traps.

Ould Abdallah cited the case of a Spanish trawler captured by “pirates” while illegally fishing for tuna off Somalia in April.

The “piracy” activities off Somalia have reached crisis proportions since the country sank into chaos after warlords ousted the late president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Thus, Somalia’s coastal waters have become one of the most dangerous in the world, with more than 79 ships seized by pirates in 2008 despite navy patrols.

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