Sun 12 Apr 2009
Musician K’naan (born in Somalia, grew up during the civil war, proponent of human rights) recently penned a piece on why the pirate situation in Somalia is at best quite complicated. His piece is extremely well-written and shares a perspective we don’t hear from the mainstream media’s reporting on the situation. Check out his piece, published at the Huffington Post. It deals with environmental injustices, the attitude of the west towards lives in post-colonial countries (worthless), and peoples’ self determination. I share it because this is a viewpoint that is completely missing from the general discussion in the West. (Side note: no pirate’s captives have been harmed as of yet).
Great thanks to K’naan, (check out his music website).
Here’s an excerpt from the article, check out the whole piece:
Already by this time, local fishermen in the coastline of Somalia have 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.
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 Parterns, and an Italian waste company called Achair Parterns, 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 $1000 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 UN envoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, says that the practice still continues to this day.
UPDATE (4/13): Johann Hari has a piece in Alternet today that shares a similar perspective: “We’re Being Lied to About Pirates.”