Of Toxic Wastes, Warlords, and Pirates

The toxic wastes polluting Somalia’s seas did not just end up there by accident after being washed up the shore by the tsunami of 2005.


The toxic wastes polluting Somalia’s seas did not just end up there by accident after being washed up the shore by the tsunami of 2005.

These barrels of wastes, believed to be thrown by European, Asian and American fleets, have already killed 300 people, as confirmed by international authorities, and have left thousands more sick with unusual diseases caused by radioactivity.

Toxic-dumping agreements

In one of her columns which appeared in the Guerrilla News Network (GNN), Ms. Loretta Napoleoni, the well-known author of Terror Incorporated, Insurgent Iraq, and Rogue Economics, disclosed how European and Asian countries contracted leading waste-disposal firms, the Swiss Archair Partners and the Italian Progresso, to export their undesirable refuse to impoverished countries with weak governments.

Napoleoni, also a senior partner of G Risk, a London-based risk agency, is an expert on the financing of terrorism and advises several governments on counter-terrorism.

She said the most popular destination for the unwanted and undesirable refuse (wastes) of rich countries is Africa, with Nigeria and Somali as favorite spots.

“Among the toxic material unveiled by the tsunami there was radioactive uranium, cadmium, mercury, lead and also highly toxic chemical, industrial and hospital materials from Europe. The shipment dated back to 1992 when a group of European companies recruited Swiss company Archair Partners and the Italian company Progresso, both specialised in the export of undesirable waste. Between 1997 and 1998, the Italian weekly Famiglia Cristiana and the Italian branch of Greenpeace denounced such business in a series of articles. Greenpeace even managed to get hold of a copy of the agreement signed by President of Somalia Ali Mahdi Mohamed, wherein he agreed to receive 10 million tons of toxic waste in exchange for $80 million. This equates to a cost of $8 per ton against a recycling and dismantling cost in Europe of $1,000 per ton,” she said.

Mr. Nick Nuttal, the United Nations (UN) Environmental Program’s media chief, said it is cheaper to dump wastes in Somalia than to have it disposed within Europe.

“It cost as little as £1.70 ($2.51 based on the prevailing exchange rate) a ton, whereas waste disposal costs in Europe was something like £670 ($989.48),” he said in a statement after inspecting Somalia.

He also confirmed Napoleoni’s reports.

“And the waste is of many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury. There are also industrial waste, hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it,” the UNEP media chief said.

Inaction of authorities created pirates’ groups

Simon Assaf of the Black Star News, a leading investigative newspaper in New York today, said that despite the evidence uncovered by the tsunami, an investigation into the practice of toxic dumping was dropped. “There was no compensation and no clean up,” he said.

Neither did the UN bodies act on the proliferation of illegal trawler fishing in the Somali seas.

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