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3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates

Sources:
Al Jazeera English, October 11, 2008
Title: “Toxic waste behind Somali piracy”
Author: Najad Abdullahi

Huffington Post, January 4, 2009
Title: “You are being lied to about pirates”
Author: Johann Hari

WardheerNews, January 8, 2009
Title: “The Two Piracies in Somalia:  Why the World Ignores the Other”
Author: Mohamed Abshir Waldo

Student Researcher:  Christine Wilson
Faculty Evaluator:  Andre Bailey, EOP Advisor
Sonoma State University

The international community has come out in force to condemn and declare war on the Somali fishermen pirates, while discreetly protecting the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fleets from around the world that have been poaching and dumping toxic waste in Somali waters since the fall of the Somali government eighteen years ago.

In 1991, when the government of Somalia collapsed, foreign interests seized the opportunity to begin looting the country’s food supply and using the country’s unguarded waters as a dumping ground for nuclear and other toxic waste.

According to the High Seas Task Force (HSTF), there were over 800 IUU fishing vessels in Somali waters at one time in 2005, taking advantage of Somalia’s inability to police and control its own waters and fishing grounds. The IUUs poach an estimated $450 million in seafood from Somali waters annually. In so doing, they steal an invaluable protein source from some of the world’s poorest people and ruin the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen.

Allegations of the dumping of toxic waste, as well as illegal fishing, have circulated since the early 1990s, but hard evidence emerged when the tsunami of 2004 hit the country. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported that the tsunami washed rusting containers of toxic waste onto the shores of Puntland, northern Somalia.

Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesman, told Al Jazeera that when the barrels were smashed open by the force of the waves, the containers exposed a “frightening activity” that had been going on for more than a decade. “Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there,” he said. “The waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes—you name it.”

Nuttall also said that since the containers came ashore, hundreds of residents have fallen ill, suffering from mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and other ailments. “What is most alarming here is that nuclear waste is being dumped. Radioactive uranium waste that is potentially killing Somalis and completely destroying the ocean,” he said.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia, says the practice helps fuel the eighteen-year-old civil war in Somalia, as companies pay Somali government ministers and/or militia leaders to dump their waste. “There is no government control . . . and there are few people with high moral ground . . . yes, people in high positions are being paid off, but because of the fragility of the Transitional Federal Government, some of these companies now no longer ask the authorities—they simply dump their waste and leave.”
In 1992 the countries of the European Union and 168 other countries signed the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. The convention prohibits waste trade between countries that have signed, as well as countries that have not signed the accord, unless a bilateral agreement had been negotiated. It also prohibits the shipping of hazardous waste to a war zone.

Surprisingly, the UN has disregarded its own findings, and has ignored Somali and international appeals to act on the continued ravaging of the Somali marine resources and dumping of toxic wastes. Violations have also been largely ignored by the region’s maritime authorities.

This is the context from which the men we are calling “pirates” have emerged.

Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somali fishermen who, at first, took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia.

One of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, explains that their motive is “to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters. . . . We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish, and dump waste, and carry weapons in our seas.”

Author Johann Hari notes that, while none of this makes hostage-taking justifiable, the “pirates” have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalia news site WardherNews conducted the best research we have on what ordinary Somalis are thinking. It found that 70 percent “strongly support the piracy as a form of national defense of the country’s territorial waters.”

Instead of taking action to protect the people and waters of Somalia from international transgressions, the UN has responded to the situation by passing aggressive resolutions that entitle and encourage transgressors to wage war on the Somali pirates.

A chorus of calls for tougher international action has resulted in multi-national and unilateral Naval stampede to invade and take control of the Somali waters. The UN Security Council (a number of whose members may have ulterior motives to indirectly protect their illegal fishing fleets in the Somali Seas) passed Resolutions 1816 in June 2008, and 1838 in October 2008, which “call upon States interested in the security of maritime activities to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, in particular by deploying naval vessels and military aircraft . . .”
Both NATO and the EU have issued orders to the same effect. Russia, Japan, India, Malaysia, Egypt, and Yemen, along with an increasing number of countries have joined the fray.
For years, attempts made to address piracy in the world’s seas through UN resolutions have failed to pass, largely because member nations felt such resolutions would infringe on their sovereignty and security. Countries are unwilling to give up control and patrol of their own waters. UN Resolutions 1816 and 1838, to which a number of West African, Caribbean and South American nations objected, were accordingly tailored to apply to Somalia only. Somalia has no representation at the United Nations strong enough to demand amendments to protect its sovereignty, and Somali civil society objections to the Draft Resolutions—which makes no mention of illegal fishing or hazard waste dumping—were ignored.

Hari asks, “Do we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn’t act on those crimes—but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world’s oil supply, we begin to shriek about “evil.” If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause—our crimes —before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia’s criminals.”

Update by Mohamed Abshir Waldo
The crises of the multiple piracies in Somalia have not diminished since my previous article, “The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the Word Ignores the Other,” was written in December 2008. All the illegal fishing piracy, the waste dumping piracy and the shipping piracy continue with new zeal. Somali fishermen, turned pirates in reaction to armed foreign marine poachers, have intensified their war against all kinds of ships in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

On international response, foreign governments, international organizations and mainstream media have been united in demonizing Somalia and described its fishermen as evil men pillaging ships and terrorizing sailors (even though no sailors were harmed). This presentation is lopsided. The media said relatively little on the other piracies of illegal fishing and waste dumping.
The allied navies of the world—fleets of over forty warships from over ten Asian, Arab, and African countries as well as from many NATO and EU member countries—stepped up their hunt for the Somali fishermen pirates, regardless of whether they are actually engaged in piracy or in normal fishing in the Somali waters. Various meetings of the International Contact Group for Somalia (ICGS) in New York, London, Cairo, and Rome continue to underline the demonization of the Somali fishermen and urge further punitive actions without a single mention of the violation of illegal fishing and toxic dumping by vessels from the countries of those sitting in the ICGS and UN forums in judgment of the piracy issue.

At the ICGS Anti-Piracy meeting in Cairo on May 30 2009, Egypt and Italy were two of the loudest countries calling for severe punishment of the Somali fishermen pirates. As the ICGS are meeting in Rome today (June 10, 2009), two Egyptian trawlers full of fish illegally caught in Somali waters and an Italian barge that had been towing two huge tanks suspected of containing toxic or nuclear waste are being held in the Somali coastal town of Las Khorey by the local community, who invited the international experts to come and investigate these cases. So far, the international community has not responded to the Las Khorey community’s invitation.

It should be pointed out that both the IUUs and waste dumping are happening in other African countries. Ivory Coast is a victim of major international toxic dumping.
It is said that acts of piracy are actually acts of desperation, and, as in the case of Somalia, what is one man’s pirate is another man’s Coast Guard.

  • Kahin May 12, 2010

    Who cares when the white man is not the victim.

  • DARREN D June 21, 2010

    THE PIRATES ARE STAGED . ITS A COVER FOR THE FACT THAT THERE IS A STARGATE OPEN JUST OFF THE COAST OF SOMOLIA. THINK ABOUT IT HOW CAN 4 PEOPLE IN A 20 FT BOAT HOLD UP A SHIP THATS 250 FT LONG AND 50 FT HIGH? THE NAVEL SHIPS ARE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.

  • Frances July 11, 2010

    I’ve been telling people about this issue and want to thank you for this article so I can add it to my truth arsenal.

  • sceptic September 2, 2010

    This makes no sense. Who would want to steal fish from an area where toxic waste was being dumped? Are they evil fish stealers or evil toxic dumpers? Cant have it both ways

  • Joey September 20, 2010

    People of color are not sophisticated therefore we will not consult with them in their country.

    This is the way of American-Euro man.

    • John March 25, 2014

      Stereotyping I’m a person of color so I take offense to this.
      Jerk!

  • PeterRabitb September 23, 2010

    @sceptic

    I think you are too naive. Do you think those that profit from the sale of the stolen fish would really care if the fish stock is polluted or not? They are selling the fish probably thousands of miles away, not catching it to eat themselves. In my country we have a problem with praedial larceny, i.e. the stealing of crops from farmers’ fields by individuals or bands of thieves who then sell the stolen crops to the public.

    One of the problems with this practice, besides the fact is that it is stealing and illegal, is that the crops might have recently been sprayed by the farmer with chemicals to kill insect pests or weeds just before they are stolen, and they are then sold by the thieves to consumers before they are safe to eat, as too much of the chemical residue remains on the produce for it to be safely consumed.

    Our government officials and the local press has publicized this issue repeatedly, as these thieves are putting peoples’ health in danger by selling this stolen produce, but the thieves do not care and continue this illegal and dangerous practice. I would bet that those who are stealing fish from Somali waters would have no more compunction over selling polluted fish than land based thieves have selling polluted vegetables.

  • Egoigwe September 28, 2010

    As always the UN creates the ‘legal’ excuse for military incursions into sovereign territories, fulfilling its clandestine role as a tool for global imperialism. It is the West that arms these brave men called pirates while encouraging them to dispute maritime traffic. Whereas the logic and motive are patriotic for the locals, it’s actually a set-up by the West and their agents to afford the UN that window of opportunity to pass resolutions of this kind.

    It is always about the theft of resources which belong to the weak. A rape of their well-being and the brutal and callous degradation of their societies for the upliftment of another called ‘civilized’. It’s daylight robbery that our toothless bulldog the AU ought to have condemned a long time ago. This is one classical example that showcases the UN as a rogue institurion and a paid piper.

  • A Mind is a terrible thing to E-waste November 16, 2010

    @ Sceptic
    I would think a Skeptic like yourself would realize the quality of food being served to you is not of the highest importance to those who are illegally trawling in a broken state’s waters.

  • alex November 23, 2010

    This sounds like a major problem, for the entire world! But I’m not sure what the connection is to the pirates? I highly doubt they are doing this because of the toxic waste or fishing! -They are doing it to rob people! Are you suggesting that we let them rob any ship because they are in a bad spot and need help?
    This is the kind of liberal thinking that is completely stupid! Bascially you’re saying it’s our fault that we’re getting robbed because we let the Somali’s situation get so bad…..but then all you lefties bitch when we intervene with problems in other countries. Liberals are just so pessimistic and guilty they feel they deserve to be robbed and killed because of their success and well being! The world isn’t fair! It’s not safe and there are truly evil people out there, that’s reality! Most liberals blame shift like crazy, when does the buck stop?

  • Prem December 11, 2010

    It’s all like saying ” Ulta chor kotwal ko dante ” .

  • mikwillson December 20, 2010

    Your article’s resource box should help to persuade your readers. No matter how amazing your article is if it’s not succeeding in driving traffic to your website

  • Eric Johnson December 20, 2010

    Great post. Thanks for sharing. I’ve bookmarked your blog and will be checking back for updates.

  • Sarah February 15, 2011

    “Most liberals blame shift like crazy, when does the buck stop?”

    Couldn’t agree more alex

  • graphic design careers February 17, 2011

    You dealt with several curious things here. I found it by using Msn and I must confess that I already subscribed to the blog, it is quite decent (;

  • hamstar April 2, 2011

    @DARREN D

    Dude, they dismantled all the stargates because they think 2012 is going to bring some bad shit through the portals. If there is one still open in Somalia we should be scared.

  • Jennifer Nichols April 4, 2011

    @Alex

    “I highly doubt they are doing this because of the toxic waste or fishing! -They are doing it to rob people! Are you suggesting that we let them rob any ship because they are in a bad spot and need help?”

    You are basing your criticism of the article on your OPINION that YOU highly doubt there is a connection between toxic waste dumping, illegal fishing and piracy. If you have some EVIDENCE, then make a case – that is what the author is doing. Also, the article does not suggest that nothing should be done about pirates who are robbing and killing people. I am a liberal, and I agree that it is wrong for anyone to rob and kill. The point of the article, as per my reading, is that if we want to solve the problem we should address the root cause.

  • EssEffOh July 17, 2013

    I just now found this article after a Google search to get my all facts and background straight after seeing the trailer for the coming-soon Hollywood/Tom Hanks movie about Somali pirates and the Maersk Alabama hijacking.

    I haven’t seen the movie (and won’t see the movie), but somehow I’m guessing, from the looks of the trailer, that the Americans will be the good guys and the Somalis will be the scary bad guys.

    How we keep trying to paint the US military–the single most physically powerful and dominate global entity in the history of the world–as the good guys sweeping against odds to save the day from forces of evil, is utterly absurd.

  • Cosemans February 14, 2014

    Dear,

    I am a filmmaker and actually like to go in april to Somalia ( moren Puntland|&Somaliland)to make a documentary about this subject. Would ‘Al Jazeera’ be interested to show it?
    I work for the ‘Ministery of Interior’of Belgium ( audiovisual service) but i also work freelance. I work for a Somalium Economic Forum ( mostly Somalian people) and we are planning to make a film about it. Can the author of this artickle contact me please?

    Please contact me on 0032 499 26 22 43 or by email

    Evy Cosemans
    Visserstraat 19
    9150 Rupelmonde

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