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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom ... Daily Practice

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Somali Piracy .. In Context

Nearly all media outlets in New York City announced the Manhattan indictment of a Somali youth on ten counts including piracy and kidnapping. 16-year-old Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse is described as the leader of a group who forcibly boarded the Maersk Alabama last month. As you've probably heard, the attempted hijacking was foiled and the captain of the ship has been hailed as a hero. Muse is the only "pirate" in the attack who remains alive. Unfortunately, we haven't even heard half the story. Historical analysis so seldom accompanies news reports on Africa (and its diasporans for that matter).

It is so easy to repudiate this youth. Simply google the words "Somali pirate" and "punk" and you'll be bombarded with commentaries and reports depicting this teenager, who faces life in prison, as a one-dimensional villain. Has anyone asked why piracy on the Indian ocean waters is even occurring? We've seen reports of the virtual collapse of the Somalian government due to the civil war which began around 1991. What we aren't hearing is how large foreign ships destroyed the delicate ecosystem off the coast of Somali.

The communities on the coast of Somali have probably been fishing-based since time immemorial. As they lived in Ma'at with their environment, the ocean used to adequately provide for all of their needs. In fact, some of the world's finest lobster used to inhabit the millennia-old coral reefs. Unfortunately since the civil war, foreign ships have decimated these reefs with toxic dumping and even by dragging heavy chains along them to collect lobster. These ships usually operate in waters just out of the reach of the local people and the weakened government of Somalia has not been able to address these activities.

Due to the destruction of their marine ecosystem, Somalia's costal communities have been ravaged by droughts, flooding, and tsunamis. Without the ability to fish, they have been thrust into abject poverty. Some of the individuals living in these communities have turned to piracy as they want to take "revenge" on these foreign ships. Interviewing with the U.S. newspaper conglomerate McClatchy from a prison in Mandhera, Somalia, 38-year-old Farah Ismail Eid explains how the foreign presence created the conflict:

"Now the international community is shouting about piracy. But long before this, we were shouting to the world about our problems. No one listened. They fished everything — sharks, lobsters, eggs. They collided with our boats. They came with giant nets and swept everything out of the sea." He recalls that the first hijackings occurred around 1997, with the seizure of a China vessel and a Kenyan ship which was ransomed for $500,000. "When I heard about this, I was happy."

We must remember that living outside of the laws of Ma'at comes at a price. In fact, if we live long enough, these prices are usually paid by everyone. As the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "While the moral arc of the universe is long, it bends towards justice." Hopefully reporting on the Somalian hijacking issue will begin to include a more balanced perspective. How can we assume that costal communities will continue to struggle in silence without looking for others to share their burden? The global community of Africans must also weigh in on this travesty. If not, the moral arc may come to exact its toll upon our heads as well. Shem em Hetep!

More balanced reporting on the Somalian "Piracy" Issue:
McClatchy Online (used in this post):

Allafrica article on Somalian "Revenge"

Encyclopedia Item on Somalian Coral Reefs:

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