Somalia Piracy in Response to
Illegal Fishing and Toxic Dumping by Western Ships
an interview with Mohamed Abshir
www.democracynow.org, April 14,
President Obama vowed an international
crackdown to halt piracy off the coast of Somalia Monday soon
after the freeing of US cargo ship captain Richard Phillips, who
had been held hostage by Somali pirates since last Wednesday.
While the pirates story has dominated the corporate media, there
has been little to no discussion of the root causes driving piracy.
We speak with consultant and analyst Mohamed Abshir Waldo. In
January, he wrote a paper titled "The Two Piracies in Somalia:
Why the World Ignores the Other?"
Mohamed Abshir Waldo, a consultant and
analyst. He joins us on the line from Mombasa. He is Kenyan of
Somali origin. He wrote a piece in January titled "The Two
Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other?"
AMY GOODMAN: President Obama vowed an
international crackdown to halt piracy off the coast of Somalia
Monday soon after the freeing of US cargo ship captain Richard
Phillips, who had been held hostage by Somali pirates since last
Wednesday. Three Somali pirates were killed in the US operation.
While some military analysts are considering
attacks on pirate bases inside Somalia in addition to expanding
US Navy gunships along the Somali coastline, others are strongly
opposed to a land invasion. US Congress member Donald Payne of
New Jersey made a brief visit to the Somali capital of Mogadishu
Monday and said piracy was, quote, a "symptom of the decades
of instability." His plane was targeted by mortar fire as
he was leaving Somalia, soon after a pirate vowed revenge against
the United States for killing his men.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations
John Bolton told Fox News over the weekend that the US should
assemble a, quote, "coalition of the willing" to invade
Meanwhile, local fishing and business
communities along the Somali coast are suffering as a result of
the increased American and international naval presence in their
SOMALI FISHERMAN: [translated] American
Marine forces always arrest us as we continue fishing. We meet
their warships, and at times they send helicopters to take photos
of us, as they suspect we are pirates. And we are not.
SOMALI BUSINESSMAN: [translated] People are worried about the
troops, as it is becoming more and more difficult to do business.
There's a lot of warships patrolling the sea, and merchant ships
are getting more and more checked, thinking they are operated
AMY GOODMAN: While the pirates story has
dominated the corporate media, there has been little to no discussion
of the root causes driving piracy.
Mohamed Abshir Waldo is a consultant and
analyst in Kenya. He is Kenyan of Somali origin. In January, he
wrote a paper called "The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the
World Ignores the Other?" He joins us on the phone right
now from Mombasa.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Hello. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Good to have you with us.
Can you talk about what you think the two piracies are?
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Well, the two piracies
are the original one, which was foreign fishing piracy by foreign
trawlers and vessels, who at the same time were dumping industrial
waste, toxic waste and, it also has been reported, nuclear waste.
Most of the time, we feel it's the same fishing vessels, foreign
fishing vessels, that are doing both. That was the piracy that
started all these problems.
And the other piracy is the shipping piracy.
When the marine resources of Somalia was pillaged, when the waters
were poisoned, when the fish was stolen, and in a poverty situation
in the whole country, the fishermen felt that they had no other
possibilities or other recourse but to fight with, you know, the
properties and the shipping of the same countries that have been
doing and carrying on the fishing piracy and toxic dumping.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what IUUs
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: IUUs are-I don't
remember now, but it's uninterrupted an unreported fishing, unlicensed,
unreported, uncontrolled, practically, fishing. Without [inaudible]-
AMY GOODMAN: In your article, you say-in
your article, you say it stands for illegal, unreported and unregulated
fishing fleets from Europe-
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: -and Arabia and the Far East.
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Correct, correct.
And this has been known to both the countries in the West that
had these fishing fleets, which included Spain, Italy, Greece,
and eventually UK and others who joined later, as well as Russian.
And, of course, there were many more from the East. And this problem
has been going on since 1991. And the fishing communities and
fishermen reported and complained and appealed to the international
community through the United Nations, through the European Union,
with no, actually, response in any form at all. They were totally
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Abshir Waldo, explain
how what you call "fishing piracy" began.
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Fishing piracy means
fishing without license, fishing by force, even though the community
complains, even though whatever authorities are there complain,
even though they ask these foreign fishing fleets and trawlers
and vessels that have no license, that have no permit whatsoever,
when they tell them, "Stop fishing and get out of the area,"
they refuse, and instead, in fact, they fight. They fought with
the fishermen and coastal communities, pouring boiling water on
them and even shooting at them, running over their canoes and
fishing boats. These were the problems that had been going on
for so long, until the community organized themselves and empowered,
actually, what they call the National Volunteer Coast Guard, what
you would call and what others call today as "pirates."
AMY GOODMAN: So you're saying illegal
fishing is happening off the coast of Somalia. What countries
are engaged in it?
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: The countries engaged
include practically all of southern Europe, France, Spain, Greece,
UK. Nowadays I hear even Norway. There were not many Scandinavians
before, but Norwegian fishing now is involved in this, you know,
very profitable fishing business. So, there are others, of course.
There are Russian. There are Taiwanese. There are Philippines.
There are Koreans. There are Chinese. You know, it's a free-for-all
And to make things worse, we learned that
now that the navies and the warships are there; every country
is protecting their own illegal fishing piracies-vessels. They
have come back. They ran away from the Somali volunteer guards,
coast guards, but now they are back. And they are being protected
by their navies. In fact, they are coming close to the territorial
waters to harass again the fishermen, who no longer have opportunity
or possibility to fish on the coast because of the fear of being
called pirates and apprehended by the navy, who are at the same
time protecting the other side.
So the issue is really a matter of tremendous
injustice, international community only attending and talking
and coming to the rescue of the-of their interests and not at
all considering or looking from the Somalis' side. This does not
mean I am condoning or anyone is condoning piracy or endangering
the life of innocent sailors and crews or damaging the property
of others, but these people, these fishermen-turned-pirates, had
no alternative but to protect themselves, to protect their turf,
to-you know, an act of desperation, you might call it.
AMY GOODMAN: What do people in Somalia
feel about the pirates, the issue of pirates off the coast?
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: A mixed reaction,
I think, in Somalia. The people do not want the innocent sailors
to be harmed. They don't want any major environmental disasters
to happen by blowing up chemical- or oil-carrying vessels. And
they urge the pirates, or fishermen pirates, they urge them not
to do any such things.
On the other hand, since there's no sympathy,
there's no understanding, there is no readiness for dialogue with
the coastal community, with the community in general, with the
Somali authorities or the regional government or the national
government on a joint action for solving these problems, then
it's each for his own way of doing. But the people are very concerned.
On the one hand, they would like this to be resolved peacefully;
on the other, they feel very sad for injustice being done by the
AMY GOODMAN: A little more on the issue
of toxic dumping, if you would, Mohamed Abshir Waldo. I don't
think people in the United States understand exactly what it is
you're referring to and how it affects people.
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Well, toxic dumping,
industrial waste dumping, nuclear dumping, as you are probably
aware and have heard and many people know, for quite some time,
in the '70s mainly, in the '80s, in the '90s, there was a lot
of waste of all these kinds that companies wanted to get rid of,
following very strict environmental rules in their countries.
So where else to take but in countries in conflict or weak countries
who could not prevent them or who could be bought? So these wastes
have been carried to Somalia. It's been in the papers. It has
been reported by media organizations like Al Jazeera, I think,
like CNN. Many had reported about the Mafia, Italian Mafia, who
admitted it, dumping it in Somalia for quite some time, for quite
a long time.
And as we speak now, I heard yesterday,
in fact, another vessel was captured in the Gulf of Aden by community-this
time not pirates, by the community, when the suspected it, and
it was carrying two huge containers, which it dumped into the
sea when they saw these people coming to them. They have been
apprehended. The vessel had been apprehended. Fortunately, the
containers did not sink into the sea, but they are being towed
to the coast. And this community has invited the international
community to come and investigate this matter. So far, we don't
have action. So this dumping, waste dumping, toxic dumping, nuclear
waste dumping has been ongoing in Somalia since 1992.
AMY GOODMAN: When I read your article,
Mohamed Abshir Waldo, it reminded me of a controversial memo that
was leaked from the World Bank-this was when Lawrence Summers,
now the chief economic adviser, was the chief economist at the
World Bank-in which it said, "I think the economic logic
behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country
is impeccable, and we should face up to that. I've always thought
that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly under-polluted."
He said he was being sarcastic.
MOHAMED ABSHIR WALDO: Actually, the more
formal official concerned with this UN habitat has also confirmed
in various reports that this has been dumped in Somalia. The special
representative of the Secretary-General, Ould-Abdullah, who is
now working with the Somali authorities, has also, I think, made
a statement to that effect. So it is very well known. It's not
something hidden. It's not something we are making up. The world
knows, but it doesn't do anything about it.
AMY GOODMAN: Mohamed Abshir Waldo, thank
you for joining us, a consultant in Kenya, speaking to us from