Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

from Our Take on Your Take:

Too busy with pirates

My initial contact with Abdinasir Mohamed Guled was when he submitted a photo to our user-generated content service, called You Witness at the time, now Your View. The caption read "hi reuters" and the location was listed as Mogadishu suqa holaha district. This was enough to peak my attention.

I spoke with Abdinasir, who at the time was busy covering the story of pirates off the Somali coast. Below is his account of his journey from contributor to You Witness to regular stringer for Reuters.

A Somali family arrive at the Elasha Biyaha camp for the internally displaced  after they fled from renewed clashes in Mogadishu, May 13, 2009.  REUTERS/Abdi Guled

"Before working for Reuters I was working for a local radio station in Mogadishu and for various websites. I was working as a producer and would contribute to CNN.

Stormy seas ahead for the pirates?

Photo

A new spate of attacks on shipping has made it quite clear that Somali pirates are not going to stop their activities just now, even though military operations by the United States and France have killed five of the buccaneers.

The international naval flotilla is stretched to protect the thousands of ships that use the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

Media values on the high seas

Photo

It’s a cynical adage of British journalism that one dead Briton is, in headline terms at least, worth several dozen foreign fatalities.

A similar law seems to be in play with the latest hostage drama on the high seas off Somalia, where four pirates have been holding an American sea captain in a life boat under the watchful eye of the USS Bainbridge.

Keeping pirates at bay

Photo

There are some expectations that piracy in the Gulf of Aden is about to tail off for a bit. It appears that pirates don’t like rough weather any more than anyone else does.

Exclusive Analysis, a political risk consultancy, has conducted a detailed study of incidences of maritime hijacking in order to give its insurer clients the heads up about when and under what circumstances piracy is most likely to occur. It has told the International Underwriting Association of London that the arrival of the monsoon in the Gulf of Aden about now usually keeps pirates on shore. Not so for Somalia, where the waters are generally calmer at the moment. Technically, it is when the Sea Scale hits 5 or 6, that is, rough to very rough.

Can world now stop Somali pirates?

Photo

With the naval might of the United States, Europe, China and others now lined up against Somalia’s pirate fraternity, shippers are hoping the nightmare year of 2008 will not be repeated.
 
Somali pirates — mainly gangs of poor young men seeking a quick fortune under the direction of older “financiers” and boat leaders –  reaped tens of millions of dollars in ransoms last year in a record haul of 42 hijacks, 111 attacks, and 815 crew taken hostage. 
 
That pushed insurance prices up, persuaded some ship-owners to go round South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal, and prompted the unprecedented rush of navies from 14 different nations to the region. Even China is in on the act, deploying its navy for the first time beyond its own waters. And Japan is considering following suit despite its post-World War II pacifist constitution.
 
There have been some early successes from all the deployments – half a dozen pirates arrested and a series of attacks blocked, by helicopter and boat. Bad weather, too, has given the pirates some real problems, drowning five of them when their pockets were stuffed with dollars after taking their share of the ransom from the release of a Saudi super-tanker.
 
Yet the pirates have still managed two new hijacks and 11 attacks in the first half of January. They are hanging on to 11 ships with 207 hostages – most notably a Ukrainian ship with tanks on board
 
And with such a vast area of operations — plus fancy new speedboats that have taken them as far as Kenya and Madagascar, and GPS equipment to keep away from the warships — the pirates are confident of keeping their business going. So who will win this modern-day battle of the seas? Will the shipping industry lose as much to the pirates this year as they did last? Should they keep paying huge ransoms like the $3 million paid for the Saudi boat?

Maybe, some argue, it will never really be possible to eradicate such a lucrative business which, in one of the world’s most failed states, offers an opportunity for poor and hungry men to become millionaires after a few successful raids. As one pirate told us, they will carry on until there is government again in Somalia.

What hope for Somalia?

Photo

Fighting in Mogadishu. Kidnaps of foreign aid workers. Hijacks by pirates. Africa’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The news from Somalia seems to be relentlessly negative, writes Reuters Somalia correspondent Guled Mohamed. So it has been for the best part of 17 years since warlords overran the country in 1991 to usher in the modern period of chaos in this part of the Horn of Africa.

  •