Piracy is an early wake-up call to the world!

This April witnessed the hijacking, and later, the release of American Cargo ship Maeserk Alabama ’s Captain Robert Philips. When the pirates, in the horn of Africa, stormed the ship, the crew members fought back. But, in the end, Philips was offered to save other members.

There ensued a four-day standoff as efforts to rescue Philips were under way after he jumped overboard to no avail. Nonetheless, the second time he did, things happened as the American snipers took on the pirates. Three were killed and one apprehended. This was taken as victory against pirates. But is it really?

No secret. Apart from being a lucrative business now, piracy is there to stay if Somalia remains a failed state. But who made Somalia a failed state? We need to answer this question before jumping into simple solutions and condemnations. If Afghans can grow hashish for a living, what’s wrong with Somalis using their waters to make a living? Though all these are crimes by nature, necessity and double standard are the only things to blame alongside these vices. 

Under Jaalle Mohamed Siad Barre, Somalia inclined to China . Barre wanted to build Somalia based on scientific socialism. Though for Barre this was a good thing to do, just like other countries that did not bend before the west’s vested interests, he had to face the consequences politically and economically. This couple with corruption, dictatorship and western machinations weakened his regime so as to ultimately being toppled in 1991 by Mohamed Farrah Aidid’s army.

Control of Somalia was of great interest for both US and Soviet Union by then. This created tension within Somalia, especially on Barre himself. Because it’s difficult, even next to impossible to serve two masters at a time. Thus, later on, Barre rived his relationship with an already weakening Soviet Union as he switched gears to the west. The story is very long anyway.

Importantly, let us look at the dangers of booty which is said to be carried out by Somali pirates. First of all, with a failed state, lawlessness and insecurity are the order of the day. We’re told piracy started when some Somalis discovered that some ships from South Korea, Japan and other trawlers were taking advantage of failed statehood to come and fish tuna in Somalia ’s waters, that are said to be among the world’s richest places for  tuna on earth. Therefore, Somalis did not want to become witness of the looting of their own resources. They sent some brigades to chase thieving ships away or taking some bribes from them in some incidents.

It must be noted. Somalis are business oriented naturally. They were facing a booby trap. Looking at how their failed country is doing, they deserve kudos and help altogether. Though, failed as Somalia is, its economy’s never became moribund like Zimbabwe’s. Comparatively, Somalia has a better economy than even peaceful Tanzania so to speak.  The problem is lesser in magnitude compared to systemic looting going on in many African countries. 

The economies of Somalia and even neighboring Kenya, where we’re told, pirates are investing heavily, are likely to shrive thanks to ransoms paid. Currently, it’s reported recently that mortgages in Kenya are robust thanks to Somalis investors. The price of land in cities like Nairobi and Mombasa is exorbitant. 

If one considers the ransoms pirates are given to the amount of fish stolen from Africa waters, they’re but a drop in the ocean. On 9 February 2009, Tanzania People’s Defence Force (TPDF) in conjunction with their counterparts from South African, impounded a Taiwanese illegal fishing vessel in her waters.  Over 100 tons of tuna were caught. This was the first anti-illegal fishing success in the history of a 48 years old nation. Though this was reported as a normal criminal incidence, if it is clinically subjected to microscopic dissection, one may crack the puzzle as to why Africa ’s always been poor. It’s indeed, made poor by two factors-internal and external. 

As per the price of the day of $8 to 10 dollars per kilo for tuna, multiply by 100 illegal vessels said to operate in the waters, then multiply by the 48 years that Tanzania has been independent. This makes a simple mathematics sum at $ 3,360,000,000 (equivalent to the current budget of the US and bigger that the whole money already injected into the bailout of all rich countries on Earth!). Isn’t such a crime bigger than piracy when it comes to income? Who addresses it?

Even what has been going on in African countries where rich countries have, since independence, weakened them so as to rob their resources, is more a crime than piracy!

Though the world looks at pirates like criminals, nature does not allow vacuum. If the world community is paying much attention onto other countries like Palestine, Afghanistan and the like, why shouldn’t Somali survive by whatever means possible? Piracy problem must be taken as an early wake-up call to the international community to stop its indifference, cold shoulder and bias.

Nobody was paying any attention to Somalia until there were rumours that Al-Qaeda was consolidating itself there and when piracy became a problem to rich countries. Had those ships being preyed on belonged to poor countries, nobody would pay a damn.

These two problems are likely to awaken the international community to act decisively. It must been remembered when the US wanted to get rid of Al-Qaeda in Somalia, it commissioned Ethiopia to do its dirty laundry, little knowing it had no guts to take on and ultimately vanquish Somalia.

Why is the US pumping billions of dollars to Pakistan, Iraq , Israel, Afghanistan and even Palestine, but the same ignores Somalia and Africa in general? Now that the pirates have made their case crystal clear, will the US and its allies keep on sitting on this hot nail? Shall they dare, the economy of rich countries will be affected even much more. For, Indian Ocean, apart from being strategic area for their security, it is a commercial life line. So Somalia must be egged on instead of banishing it.

Though piracy is regarded as crime and indeed it is, if you look at it otherwise, it is but a political riot, in that, Africa needs to be taken as serious as other continents. What’s going on in Somalia is no different from what is currently going on in Mexico. The US use to ignore and bar Mexico by even erecting a wall on its border with Mexico. This gave birth to drug and gang related violence. May Americans have already lost their lives and insecurity is swelling on the border. To avert this danger, the US is currently pumping money into Mexico to deter drug trafficking and gang related operations, just the same it is doing in Afghanistan to bar Al-Qaeda and Taliban from taking over.

Now that in Somalia pirates have taken over after militias failed, it’s high time for the powers of the world to remember Somali’s crisis as they act decisively. Also, rich countries must stop looting poor ones. Otherwise crimes such as piracy will never been rooted out.

Nkawzi Mhango is a Tanzanian living in Canada. He writes regularly for “The African Executive” and also has a blog entitled “Free Thinking Unabii”. He is a regular contributor to AfroSpear.