Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Andrew Mwangura, Kenyan anti-piracy advocate: Criticisms and comments

Kennebec Captain has a piece about a recent post on the War Is Boring blog about Andrew Mwangura, the Kenyan anti-piracy advocate. The original posting is from War Is Boring's David Axe, whici is somewhat critical of Mwangura, accusing him of being, "[T]he only man man who can save the world from Somali pirates." Axe goes on to say that, "These days, I'm equally skeptical when Mwangura says he's just a well-connected seafarers' advocate."

Sorry, David, but you're 'equally skeptical' to whom? The Kenyan authorities who persecuted Andrew, something that even you agree was 'clearly wrong'?

Unlike others, I know Andrew personally and have spent a lot of time with him. and I've seen his influence in the East African seafaring community. Spurious online pieces likes yours do nothing to help the situation facing mariners off the northeast cast of Africa. It boggles my mind as to why one would post something like this, attacking someone actually striving to make a difference to the plight facing mariners. Focus here, folks: We are enmeshed in a war against well-financed and highly organized opponents. Attacking the messenger, so to speak, is a mistake. In fact, they actually play into the hands of pirates who seek to discredit those opposed to them.

If I sound like I'm being overtly harsh to Mr. Axe, or 0thers, I apologize. But only mutely. Anyone weighing in on this issue needs to understand that the stakes are high. Very high. Amateurish perspectives based on wandering around Mombasa do not add to things.

I'll be posting some thoughts on the situation off the Horn of Africa shortly, provided by a number of informed sources.


David Axe said...

Hi Daniel,

I enjoy your blog.

Regarding the Mwangura issue: It seems to me that Mwangura has worked very hard to turn his seafarers' assistance program into a profit-making operation. According to some of Mwangura's former co-workers I interviewed, Mwangura sells information to the press -- something that a legitimate assistance program should not do. I interviewed many maritime officials in Mombasa, and none demanded payment from me.

That's not to say that a profit operation can't also have positive effects on serious public issues. It's just that, once profit enters into the equation, we have to be much more careful in approaching an organization, such as Mwangura's, that has such a powerful shaping effect on public perceptions.

Daniel Sekulich said...

Thanks for you comments, David.

It's true that Andrew has sought to make an income from his work with SAP, but that's because he's been doing it without any sustainable funding from anyone. (To say he's been barely getting by is an understatement.) When compared to the funding available to organizations like the IMB, ITF or Nautilus UK, it's a miracle he's managed to do what he's done these last few years.

As for selling information to the press, I can't comment on that, and can only say that to me and colleagues of mine, he's never done that.

It would be far better if Andrew's work were supported by someone, so that he could concentrate on dealing with piracy, rather than worrying about how to care for his family.