Saturday, February 7, 2009

Muammar Gaddafi defends Somali pirates

Muammar Gaddafi (left) at the opening of the 12th African Union Summit
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 2, 2009 (Reuters photo)

Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi, one of the more interesting political leaders of recent times, has offered his own opinion on the piracy situation that bedevils East Africa. Gaddafi has just assumed the rotating role of chairman of the African Union, an office he will occupy for the next year after succeeding the previous AU chair, Tanzanian president Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. And, according to the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation, he wasted little time in speaking out about the issue, saying he does not believe the Somalis are committing any crimes.

"It is not a piracy, it is self defence. It is defending the Somalia children's food," Gaddafi is quoted as saying. "It is a response to greedy Western nations, who invade and exploit Somalia's water resources illegally."

While he may be alluding to the very serious issue of illegal fishing and the dumping of waste in the seas off Somalia, none of his comments have any bearing on the actions of pirates who have attacked vessels transiting well into international waters, such as the supertanker Sirius Star, or the hijacking of vessels carrying food aid for Somali civilians. Those attacks are purely acts of maritime criminal and cannot be cloaked in any guise of 'self defence' any more than attacking fishing boats which do not pay money to pirate groups for 'fishing permits' can be considered environmental regulatory actions. For more on this, you can download a PDF of the UN's Monitoring Group for Somalia report from 2006 that details some of the payment schemes. Click here and then select the report from 4 May 2006. (Apologies for a cut-and-paste error I made when I first posted this.)

Gaddafi also went on to say that a priority of his tenure would be to "claim compensation from colonial masters for their crimes and exploitation during the colonial era", though how this relates to piracy is questionable.

But there is a sentiment expressed by some that I saw while in East Africa, that justified piracy as being part of the aftermath of colonialism, even if its growth commenced with the end of the Cold War. However, the time has passed when Africans in places like Somalia can blame the West for all of their problems. Without a doubt we in the First World have a responsibility to help those less fortunate around the globe. But our humanitarian efforts must be matched by leadership, security and law and order from those seeking to make a better society for their own people. By merely blaming the past, you engender a repetitive cycle that is self-destructive in nature. Do not call us in the West the reason that Somali fathers, sons and brothers hold hostage fellow Africans or fellow Muslims. But perhaps Muammar Gaddafi is merely thinking of his own history, being as he is the leader of a land that once boasted Barbary Pirates.


MDW said...

Mr. Sekulich,

I was unable to access the PDF link to the UN Monitoring Group for Somali as the webpage took me to a 404 Error. Could you please repair the link (if the fault is not solely on my end)?


Daniel Sekulich said...

Thank-you for catching the problem with the link and notifying me, MDW. What can I say? Too many bookmarks, too few nimble fingers.

MDW said...

Thank you! I am writing my master's thesis on Somali piracy and have found your website to be extremely helpful. Keep up the good work!