Somalia vs the World
It's 1991 and Somalia is no longer a nation. The collapse of the government throws the east Afrikan nation into a marathon of chaos, hunger and uncertainty. Where many analysts hide their racial notion that the collapse of the nation is because of Afrikans inability to govern themselves, the fact remains, Somalia has had little structure for decades. Whenever a nation has no functional government the people of that land become the victims of every other nation on the planet. In the case of Somalia, the lives of poor Black people do not appear on the radar of the consideration of the rest of the world. It is this situation along with Somalias’ history of embattled colonialism that makes Somalians a particularly fierce and enduring people.
In 1991, Muhammad Said Barre was ousted as president of Somalia after which Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, was the center point for a violent power grab by feuding "warlords". The notable ones being Muhammad Aideed and the other faction lead by Ali Mahdi Mohamed. During the years of Somalia's instability the people suffered....but not just from the domestic warlords.
According to the people on the ground in Somalia, peculiar events started happening right after the ouster of Muhammad Said Barre in 1991. Miles off the coast of Somalia into the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (depending on where an individual was looking) there appeared large boats. These boats off in the distance were not only transgressing into Somali territory but they were dumping toxic waste into the water while other boats were stealing large amounts of fish and other seafood.
Johann Hari in an article from the San Francisco Bay View newspaper writes:
"’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.’"
No sooner than the Tsunami washed up the evidence, European companies dumping toxic waste into the water, that another unfortunate realization occurred to the Somali fishermen. Many of these European boats were looting the Somali waters of seafood. This only enhanced the food crisis in Somalia and impoverished the fishermen even more.
Hari goes on to write:
"More than $300 million worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas."
The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: 'If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.' "
Despite the division and despite the lack of structure in the country, the trespassing ships looting seafood and other ships dumping toxic waste were soon confronted by a loosely organized group of Somali men. The goal was to defend Somalia in the face of victimization and disrespect from European, Asian and Middle Eastern corporations. The initial program was one of an acting "coast guard". The more the Somali men defended the Somalian waters, the more the missions evolved over the years.
"They are organized in a multitude of small cells dotting the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden coastline. The two main land bases are the towns of Eyl, in the breakaway state of Puntland, and Harardhere, further south in Somalia."
There are hundreds of small cells, linked to each other," Hasan Shukri, a pirate based in Haradhere, told AFP in a phone interview." as reported in an article from Agence France Presse featured in The Daily Star.
The Somali's devised a structured code of conduct and by-laws among the Somali cells thus making them highly effective in accomplishing their missions.The codes included details from not killing hostages to how to dispense the ransom money which at the time was considered taxes. Eventually in the absence of governmental regulation the missions of some of the fishermen and other Somalis became more criminal in nature. Over the years while some Somali's kept up the agenda of defending Somalia's waters, others turned the efforts into a more profit making venture. However, they kept the code of conduct which separated many of the Somali pirate cells from the inland Islamic militias and warlords.
Quoting the Daily Star article: "While today's pirates have morphed into a sophisticated criminal ring with international ramifications, they have been careful to retain as much popular prestige as possible and refrain from the violent methods of the warlords who made Somalia a by-word for lawlessness in the 1990s."
’I have never seen gangs that have rules like these. They avoid many of the things that are all too common with other militias,’ said Mohammad Sheikh Issa, an elder in the Eyl region."
‘They don't rape, and they don't rob the hostages and they don't kill them. They just wait for the ransom and always try to do it peacefully,’ he said."
"Somalia's complex system of clan justice is often rendered obsolete by the armed chaos that has prevailed in the country for two decades, but the pirates have adapted it effectively."
These were defenders of Somali sovereignty, they captured European boats, Arab freighters and Asian industrial boats and demanded ransoms. The parent company or country would pay the ransom more often than not as to avoid what they thought would be the death of their crews and destruction of their cargo. A ransom of a few million was nothing compared to losing an entire ships worth of cargo, or the ship itself. The Somalians even captured an Israeli ship that was carrying a multitude of ammunition and guns headed for of all places, Sudan. The mainstream media took little notice that the Darfur and Southern Sudanese Rebels were being armed by Israel in their fight against the Islamic government in Khartoum.
The Ukrainian ship owned by Israel "...was carrying a cargo of 33 Soviet-type battle tanks, rocket launchers and ammunition, allegedly expected to reach rebels in the Sudanese violent Darfur region.".
On Tuesday, a plane from South Africa carrying $ 3.2 million dropped the demanded ransom onto the Faina upon an agreement between the pirates and the ship's owner, Press TV correspondent reported.". This account is according to an online article from presstv.ir
Initially the attitude towards the Somali men hijacking boats was looked upon favorably by many of the Muslim warring factions inland. It wasn't until the hijackings became a matter of criminal money making ventures rather than the honorable duty of protecting Somalia's waters that many Muslim warlords showed their disdain for the so called "pirates". In fact the hijackings were ended by force at times as reported on May 25th 2008 by AFP Google news article entitled "Six killed in clashes between Somali pirates and Islamists".
The Islamists mentioned in the article were an organized group of Somali Muslims who deemed themselves the Union of Islamic Courts that eventually gained some control over Somalia and in fact was able to garner a much more peaceful time in the country during their rule. During their presence in Mogadishu, they fought against and many times arrested the pirates for their actions.
The peace did not last as the United States through the CIA declared that the UIC as well as other Islamic groups in Somalia were linked to Al Qadea and the anti-western government in Eritrea. This lead the U.S. to assist in the formulation of the Transitional Federal Government with Ethiopia against the Union of Islamic Courts whom were backed by Eritrea. Upon their dealings with the populace on the ground in Somalia the C.I.A. began a campaign of funding warlords to strike against the UIC. Initially the UIC had little backing from the populace. Yet support for the UIC spread throughout Somalia from many in the populace who began to figure out that outside western forces were subverting their country. Eventually the U.S. lead military strikes with Ethiopia on Somalia to drive out the Islamists in December of 2006. It was during the years leading up to the 2006 U.S.-Ethiopian invasion and bombing of Somalia (where civilians were killed) that the Islamists managed a fragile peace and fought against and prosecuted the so called "pirates". This invasion resulted in one of the worst catastrophes in Somalian history as thousands of Somalians were displaced from their homes or killed by direct U.S. air strikes and brutal Ethiopian occupation.
The eventual effect of this alliance between Ethiopia and the U.S. may be a blowback of sorts as the pirates may unite with their former nemesis in the Muslim militias. One Muslim group in particular, Al Shabab have sided with the pirates in light of recent events with the U.S.
The Christian Science Monitor reports "...more radical Islamist groups, among them Al Shabab, which reportedly has ties with Al Qadea, have recently praised pirates. In Baidoa, Al Shabab spokesman Muktar Robow ‘Abu Mansur’ told reporters that pirates were 'protecting the Somali coast.'
’Foreign powers want to divide the country,’ he said, 'and the pirates are protecting the coast against the enemies of Allah.' "
Al Shabab as well as a few other Muslim groups in Somalia have looked to the pirates for the dual role of funding their military efforts against the U.S. through money gained from hijacking ships and fighting against U.S. aggression. Other Muslim groups however have turned against the pirates, this is due in part to the unwanted imperialist attention and aggression that such acts will attract from the U.S..
The Maersk Alabama situation has forced President Obama to step in.
Piracy wasn't much on the radar of the United States until the Somalians hijacked the Maersk Alabama, not only a U.S. ship but a sub contractor to the Pentagon (maersklinelimited.com/services). President Barack Obama, in order to not look weak on terrorists and foreign policy reportedly gave the "ok" for the use of force against the young Somalians who held the Maersk crew along with Capt. Richard Phillips.
This situation has prompted President Obama’s administration to utilize the U.S. Navy along with other countries to escort ships through the commercially strategic portal of the Gulf of Aden. Also, these military ships will protect corporations as they lay high speed internet cable along the floor of the gulf. Compounded with naval escorts, the Obama administration is readying for military strikes on Eritrea for their support of the Somalian Muslim militias.
Talks of military action is reported in a bloomberg.com article.
"President Barack Obama, who gave permission for the military operation to free [Captain Richard] Phillips yesterday, is coordinating the U.S. response to piracy with other countries and the shipping industry to reduce vessels’ vulnerability to attack, boost operations to foil attacks and prosecute any captured suspects, said a senior administration official."
Along with military land incursions, aid will be sent to the Somalian people in order to win their support for the U.S. military action.
Let’s not overlook the irony of an African American president of the United States Barack Obama, a direct descendent of East Afrika now planning a conflict with....East Afrika. Somalia must be seen as a case study of how self determination among a people is essential to the survival and independence of that people. Without a functioning government any people of a nation will succumb to one of two eventual outcomes:
1. Lawless elements within the people, usually a minority will begin the cancerous internal disintegration from within. A fratricidal inevitability that can plague any group of people be they Asian, European, South American or North American.
2. The people within the "nation" will become victims of any outside forces that can decide at any time to take advantage of a defenseless people. This is exactly what has happened with Somalia in relation to Arab, European and Asian countries dumping toxic waste and stealing seafood from Somalias’ territorial waters.
What we have in Somalia is a long history to avoid this genocidal and fratricidal situation. Contrary to media reports, the militias of Somalia are not all connected to Al Qadea, nor are they all Muslim fundamentalists. What many people fail to understand is that Afrikans are deeply aware of their situations and are fully cognizant of what must be done. This is where those who have organized nation building efforts in Somalia have taken the responsibility to bring structure to their land. Before the U.S. - Ethiopian invasion in December 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts were able to bring about the most stability Somalians have seen in over a decade. An economy was developing, commerce among the people, criminal courts, efforts to establish medical, educational and even sporting events occurred in Somalia. None of these efforts were in their ideal state, the Somalian basketball teams were restricted especially during Islamic rule much like other sporting events. Justice in Somalia at times was brutal and the infrastructure was war torn, yet the people carried on despite the short comings. A testament to Afrikan spirit. But most notably during the authority of the Union of Islamic Courts, "Piracy" was slowed to a halt.
On the question of piracy it is evident that the Obama administration’s solution is guns and bombs. Yet it doesn’t take a social scientist to figure that in order to stop piracy, poverty must be alleviated in Somalia. Using Navy Seal snipers to kill teenagers, some of whom are merely trying to get money for their village and families, is not the answer. Yet the Obama Administration, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Pentagon are bent on the usual answer, imperialist violence and co-option of Somalian sovereignty (what’s left of it). A collective revenge against Somalia for the 1993 U.S. invasion debacle which resulted in 19 dead U.S. soldiers, an event documented in the book and subsequent movie of the same name "Black Hawk Down".
Afrikans in America figure into this Somalian situation by way of learning the facts and aiding Somalian citizens and refugees in America. Pressuring the Obama Administration for a more humane policy towards Somalia is an option worth exploring. However a fact that must enter the discussion is that the military is not a democratic entity. Ever since President Eisenhower and President Kennedy warned American citizens of the military industrial complex, the intelligence community and military have done the will of corporate elites. Since World War 2 Afrika has been an imperialistic playground for the U.S. and Europe and now China and India in what is being called the "Second Scramble for Afrika". Resource wars on the Motherland are igniting as newly realized oil rich countries like Angola, Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and now Sudan and parts of East Afrika (Eritrea, Somalia etc.) have prompted the United States to conceive and plan for a permanent military base in Afrika notably called AFRICOM or Africa Command.
With this new scramble for Afrika it is almost guaranteed that the sovereignty of every Afrikan nation will be virtually extinguished. This exploitation will have the same effect on the Motherland as it has always had: wars, famine, disease and poverty. As long as the Ethiopia and Eritrea continue their divisive conflicts in favor of foreign interests – Ethiopia with the West and Eritrea with Arab world – then Somalia, being caught in the crossfire, will destabilize the entire eastern part of the Motherland. The destabilization will intensify the situation in Sudan, threaten the stability of Kenya and may even reignite Rwanda. Unless Afrikan people whether they be Somalians, Ethiopians, Eritreans, Djiboutians, Kenyans, Afrikans in America or anywhere in the continent or the diaspora start to get serious about unity, then Afrika will be colonized for another thousand years.
"U.S. Military Considers Attacks on Somali Pirates’ Land Bases", bloomberg.com, April 12 2009
"Will pirates join forces with Islamist militias in Somalia?", Christian Science Monitor, Scott Baldauf, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the April 13, 2009 edition
"Pirates receive $3.2M for Israeli ship", presstv.ir, Feb, 3rd 2009
"You are being lied to about pirates" by Johann Hari, San Francisco Bay View February 4, 2009
"Six killed in clashes between Somali pirates and Islamists", AFP, Hiiraan Online Somalian news, May 24, 2008
"Pirates' strict code of conduct could taper off in the face of more robust navy action", AFP article featured in The Daily Star
"Six killed in clashes between Somali pirates and Islamists", May 25th 2008 by AFP Google news
copyright 2009 FX Nozakhere (Marc J. Hart)