Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Piracy off the Coasts of Somalia

The collapse of any form of administration leads humans to resort to chaos and competition for available scarce resources ultimately spearheading survival of the fittest. The aftermath of Somalia's collapse in 1991 saw the proliferation of premeditated murders of foreigners especially employees of AID agencies and international correspndents on a wider scale.

The most lavish business in Somalia today is not only kidnapping or killing of foreigners working in the country but a new art of war known as 'piracy'-where a cluster of pirates armed with rocket propelled granades (RPGs) and AK 47s transported by speed boats hold merchant ships in shallow and deep waters ransom-a thriving business that brings in millions of dollars to the paymaster and the pirate in every encounter.

Applying commando-raid styles, pirates laden with explosives and brandishing Kalshnikovs of all makes board any conceivable object in sea waters including scooners, yachts, petroleum tankers and cargo ships with lightning speed thus causing panic among crew who may have little or no readiness or experience tackling unexpected dangers. Sailors who attempt to resist pirate assaults are dealt with mercilessly by being shot at close range.

Hardly any ship held ransom escapes the wrath of Somali pirates. Masters at boarding even the highest bow of modern carriers, they prudently with tactical force commandeer any ship to their preferred safe destinations before start of negotiations with the owners or the maritime representative in Mombasa, Kenya. As if having prior knowledge of crew amalgamation, pirates often go for ships predominantly manned by poor Asian nationals.

Upon receiving word that contact has been made with the owner and that ransom negotiations have gotten of the ground, pirates who had earlier espoused barbarian tactics and Herculean force, end up at the close of a deal, displaying kind acts that leave abductees in utter bewilderment.

Moreover, piracy in this part of the world is limited to a small stretch of the Red Sea and not the entire 3300km coastline of Somalia. It is a distance of calm waters that allow the pirates a quick run for their lives should they be pursued by a much stronger force. Experience and tenacity is the force behind their many escapes from dangers. The most these pirates have come along harms way is when the captain of a luxury cruiser used debilitating sonar to deter would-be attackers. In one incident, a foreign navy used attack helicopters to destroy the core of some savage pirates who hijacked a cargo liner.

The money skillfully generated from piracy has flooded Somali warlord coffers having tremendously altered the market economy of many regions. With brideprice paid in U.S. dollars, young women wedding pirates have alot to display in their jewelry boxes. They get anything their eyes covet: gold bought in Dubai, diamond polished in Paris, Lapus Lazuli mined in the mountains of chaotic Afghanistan, brightly colored Saris from India, shoes crafted in Italy, Japanese cars, mansions, electric generators, Arabian sofa, Syrian drapes, DVD and CD players, and assortment of goods not even available to the hard working Somali from the Diaspora.

Besides, not a penny of the pirate's hard currency goes to the dogs as many have embarked on novel business ventures. Qaad, a chewable stimulating herb known to generate hefy income and cultivated in the highlands of the Arabian peninsula, Kenya, and Ethiopia, is a new business undertaking pirates cherish most. Using Land cruisers and other means of quick transportation, young and old pirates have found a new way of generating extra money while the other party invades the Red Sea for fresh vessels.

The international maritime agency has voiced concern over the escalating piracy in the Horn of Africa though nothing much has been done to bring it to an end. Despite a few navies attempting to patrol Somali coastal waters, still, alot remains to be done. Had the international community played its rightful role of bringing peace to Somalia, there would never have been piracy off Somali coasts.

I think the few men who wade into the dangerous waters of piracy are on the payrolls of paymasters who are luxuriously sunbathing somewhere along the Somali coast and perhaps meticulously executing other dreaded future plans. The way I see it, piracy is connected to Somalia's instability. Until a stable and strong government is created in Somalia, the piracy business is their stay with us for sometime.

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