Somali Piracy: Predictable Result of Global Exploitation

5-28-09, 9:02 am

Original source: People's Voice (Canada)

If someone had said two years ago that piracy would soon be a serious international issue, most people would have disregarded the claim as the delusional result of watching too many Johnny Depp movies.

Yet today, cases of real-life piracy can be found in the pages of every major newspaper on nearly a daily basis. The pirates are portrayed as simply bad apples, greedy, or otherwise morally reprehensible. But, like the rest of us, they are merely the product of their environment.

Somalia, like other African countries, is impoverished and underdeveloped due to a long history of exploitation going back to the days of slavery and colonialism. When Somalia's central government collapsed in the early 1990s, the United States was quick to intervene. Corporate interests had their eyes on Somalia as a source of natural resources (oil, iron ore, copper, salt, etc.) as well as potential cheap labour. They also considered it militarily strategic due to its proximity to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.

For these reasons, U.S. imperialism, directly and through its puppet governments in neighboring countries, has consistently played a provocative, warmongering and destabilizing role in Somalia. Over 1.1 million people have been displaced in recent years, helping to ensure that the country remains unable to pull itself out of the cycle of foreign control and exploitation which has led to its impoverishment.

This situation in general, and more specifically, the theft and destruction of the natural resources on which Somalia's coastal villages survive, has given birth to the surge of piracy.

The majority of piracy takes place in the Gulf of Aden and the western Indian Ocean. Villages along the Somali coast depend largely upon fishing for their livelihood. In the past, families could fish enough to feed themselves and to sell additional catches in local markets. But today this source of livelihood has been stolen from the Somali people by foreign corporations.

Fishing trawlers are frequently targeted by pirates. These trawlers, owned primarily by Asian and European companies, have robbed the Somali people of an estimated $300 million per year by depleting the fish stocks upon which many villages depend. These profiteers, who are illegally pillaging fish and other sea life from Somali offshore territory, are in many ways the real pirates, or at any rate, the real thieves.

Perhaps even more reprehensible has been the dumping of nuclear and toxic waste along the Somali coast by European corporations. This dumping came to light in December 2004, when the Indonesian tsunami stirred up tones of waste and revealed to the world the poisoning of the Somali people and their shores by foreign corporations for profit. It is estimated that the costs of 'disposing' of this waste in Somalia was a mere $2.50/ton, as compared to nearly $1000/ton to properly dispose of the waste in Europe. This very profitable venture for the corporations came at a high price for the Somali people, many of whom suffer from radiation sickness characterized by skin and respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding and abdominal hemorrhages. The dumping of nuclear and toxic waste has also caused a major environmental crisis in the affected areas, reaping further havoc on the available fish stocks.

Somalia's agriculture-based economy has also been hard hit by intense drought, which threatens the possibility of famine if foreign aid is not sufficiently applied. According to BBC reports, nearly half the population is suffering malnutrition, with roughly 24% of children under five year of age suffering from acute malnutrition.

Against this war-torn backdrop of hunger, desperation and lawlessness, there is little wonder how piracy came to flourish.

Predictably, the imperialist countries (the primary targets of pirate attacks) are focusing on military-based 'solutions' to the problem. Much like organized crime in North America, piracy in Somalia will not be stopped by more violence, enforcement and suppression. The situation was caused by the vicious profiteering policies of imperialism, and will only be solved by addressing these root causes.

Foreign troops, military bases and interference in the affairs of government must be removed from Somalia, and the right to self determination and sovereignty must be guaranteed. Foreign assistance to the Somali people should be rendered in the form of reparations for years of war, theft of resources and polluting of territory. Foreign companies and governments should be held responsible to pay for cleaning up the mess they have made. If not, incidences of piracy will likely continue to increase as starving Somalis struggle to feed their families.