In Defense of Pirates
Eve Donegan, Sales and Marketing Assistant
Gérard Prunier is a widely acclaimed journalist as well as the Director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa. He has published over 120 articles and five books, including The Rwanda Crisis and Darfur. His most recent book, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe focuses on Congo, the Rwandan genocide, and events that led to the death of some four million people. Below is a brief look at the current movements of the Somalia pirates and a proposed alternate way of understanding these so-called “terrorists.”
This piece could be taken as being tongue-in cheek. In fact it should be thoughtfully considered, beyond its apparently provocative aspect.
Since the spectacular seajacking of a Ukrainian transport carrying thirty-three battle tanks heading for Southern Sudan last September 25th followed by the capture of a Saudi tanker carrying $100m of crude oil, the international community has been in a big huff about the notorious Somali pirates operating off the coast of Puntland. They have been called “terrorists” and are now chased by naval units from Germany, France, the United States, China, Australia, India, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, and even Iran. The highly respectable American Enterprise Institute, which in this case seems not to see the original quality of their business initiatives, has declared that “even if ridding Somalia of pirates would by no means solve the country’s problems, it is an absolute first step.” Seven Private Military Companies (PMCs) are on the ranks for the privilege of shooting them with the most advanced technology, including Blackwater of Iraq renown. An energetic blogger is calling for “shooting them on sight.” Their sin? Capturing about 110 ships in 2008 and making $150m in ransom money. The main loss was for the shipping companies, forced to pay higher insurance premiums. If we look more closely at the phenomenon, what do we see?
• Starving young men in small fiberglass boats powered by outboard motors going hundreds of miles from shore on dangerous seas.
• They shoot but try not to kill. So far only one hostage has been shot out of hundreds of seamen taken.
• Many die, like the five man crew who drowned after getting the ransom for the Sirius Star tanker. They lost their lives and their money. One body was washed ashore with $153,000 in his pocket. His relatives put the money to dry. A hard way to keep your family alive.
• Yes, they build big houses, buy shiny cars and sweep beautiful girls off their feet. PMCs operatives who hope to shoot them have fairly similar career plans.
• Those who are captured go to jail, contrary to their militia fellow countrymen on land who murder, loot and rape civilians without any international interference.
Let’s be frank, those boys are no angels. But why focus so much on them? The reason is simple. They cost international business a lot of money, which is absolutely scandalous: Somalis are supposed to kill each other and not come out and tamper with shipping lanes and insurance rates. The Suez Canal Authority is losing millions because of these fellows. Why can’t they get themselves some Toyotas with rocket launchers and join the ranks of the Islamists? If they did, nobody would bother them. But then no more booze, beautiful girls or shiny cars. All they could do would be to pray to Allah and highjack a Red Cross truck, like true Somalis.