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Another American hand made – The Somali Pirates

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by Nilio Gumbs 30.APR.09

The hijacking of the Maersk Alabama has placed Somalia back in the spotlight in the United States.

The American media was quick to label Somalia as a failed state and enunciate the need for a strong United States response to this threat of piracy on the high seas in the Indian Ocean.{{more}}

Typically, Americans as they are, are either oblivious or ignorant of their country’s past and present deeds in creating the present impasse with Somali pirates.

Just as they helped create the much demonized Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, they also did such with the Somali pirates.

The Somali state collapsed after the overthrow of Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991 by Clan tribes men. The United States was the main backer of Siad Barre, in a region of shifting geo-political and strategic alliances during the Cold War.

Somalia, with a United States military base at Berbera, was to act as a bastion against Soviet adventurism in the Horn of Africa. A Marxist Haile Mengistu Mariam was in power in next door Ethiopia and a Marxist led government in then independent South Yemen was in close proximity.

The United States never encouraged Somalia under Mohamad Siad Barre to foster democratic governance and develop political and civil institutions. Hence, Somalia became a failed state without a functioning or effective government ever since the overthrow of Mohamad Siad Barre in 1991.

Relative stability appeared to have been returning to Somalia when the Union of Islamic Courts captured and took control of Mogadishu in 2008. The victory of this Islamic movement was met with immediate United States hostility – reacting to the prospect of a hard Line Islamic government with possible links to Al-Queda they portend. Hence, with United States blessing and backing, Ethiopia, now an ally of the United States, invaded and drove the Islamic Courts from and Mogadishu under the pretext of installing a weak United Nations backed interim government.

The lack of a strong central government has lead to the dumping of toxic waste along Somalia’s unmanned coastline and the exploitation of Somalia’s maritime waters by fishing trawlers. The depletion of coastal fish stocks has forced Somali fisherman to go further out to sea to fish. They complain of the decline in stocks in surrounding waters.

Maummar Quaddafi, the Libyan leader and rotating head of the African Union, in a recent speech reiterated the plight of the Somali fishermen and the justification for their action.

No one should condone the action of these pirates, but we also need to analyze the situation in its proper economic and geo-political context.

So, too, we should not forget our British Colonial History, where we were taught about the exploits of Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan, such dignified and immortalized pirates.

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