For this project I contacted Mr. Mohamed Abshir Waldo a consultant, analyst and journalist who resides in Kenya. I first learned about Mr. Waldo after reading a piece he wrote on piracy titled “The two piracies in Somalia: Why the world ignores the other.” Mr. Waldo was also interviewed in Democracy Now. Here is my interview with Mr. Waldo.
Could you explain, what is the Somali piracy all about? Who are these pirates? And, how long has the issue of piracy existed in the Somali coastline?
The Somali piracy is like any other piracy of its kind and like that of West Africa, straits of Malaga in Asia and others. The only difference is that the Somali have not been intentionally targeting to kill the crews, rob the cargo or de-register the ships as others do, especially those of straits of Malaga. In Somalia, the pirates are Somalis. The conflict between Somali fishermen and foreign illegal fishing vessels started in 1991, immediately the fall of the Somali government. But commercial shipping piracy started in 2006.
What are/is the root causes of piracy in Somalia?
The cause is resource based conflict as well as international injustice and endangering the life of the Somali population through the dumping of hazardous waste in the Somali seas. After the Somali fishermen struggle against the foreign IUUS (illegal, unregulated and unreported) fishing, the same IUUS armed themselves and overpowered the fishermen, who complained and appealed to the international community for assistance but were ignored. The Somali fishermen realized that most of the IUUS vessels and the commercial ships going through the Somali shores were owned by the same nations. They then decided to attack the commercial ships to draw attention to the issue. But instead of considering the fishermen's complaints, the international community waged war against the fishermen who, in turn, invited all kinds of armed Somali militias to support them.
How effective was the international media when reporting on piracy?
The international was biased and always anti the fishermen cause.
Could you elaborate more on what toxic waste is about? How long has this been going on? Somali artist, K’naan, argued that this was one of the main reasons why piracy started in Somalia. What do you think about this claim?
Toxic waste can be hazardous chemicals or more dangerous nuclear waste, both of which have been dumped in various parts of Somalia. This has been going on from the Siyad regime, knowingly or unknowingly, but it gained momentum during Ali Mahdi regime. Nobody can tell you if it is still being dumped or not since nobody is guarding the Somali seas.
Does the Somali community condone or condemn piracy?
Some condone, especially those who have interest like the unemployed youth and militias. But most Somalis condemn piracy although they are unhappy about the negative and unjust attitude of the international community towards the matter, i.e, when recently the NATO's navy leaders met with Somali community elders in Eyl, Las Khorey and Bosaso and asked for the cooperation in the war against the pirates, they (the navy) were asked to also assist the community in stopping the IUUS and toxic dumping. The reply of NATO was that they could not do it because they were not mandated to stop them.
How serious are the Somali government to resolve the piracy problem? What strategy has the Somali government taken to resolve this problem, if any?
Somali governments have no the capacity and resources to stop piracy nor do they have strategy.
What is the role of the tribal leaders to resolve this issue?
They could only assist if the Somali government were to take the lead.