Pirates and Poverty

Like in a Hollywood movie, a U.S. captain was freed from Somali pirates. I’ve been browsing the web, reading articles.

Some observations:

For one, I’m wondering how the navy seals managed to target the pirates. I thought the life boat was an enclosed boat, similar to the one shown here.

Secondly, it seems that the person to call if your ship has been kidnapped is Andrew Mwangura.

The German TV station, ARD lists a quote by him linking piracy and poverty:

Piraten wie die, die bei Phillips Befreiung ums Leben kamen, seien zudem die FuàŸsoldaten im Millionengeschäft mit der Piraterie. Vor allem Jugendliche, die nach 18 Jahren Bürgerkrieg in Somalia jede Perspektive verloren hätten. Auch deshalb ist Mwangura überzeugt, dass die Piraterie vor Somalias Küste weitergehen wird. “Jemanden, der hungrig ist, kannst Du nicht aufhalten. Ein hungriger Mann ist ein wütender Mann. Er wird tun was immer er kann, um ein bisschen Geld zu verdienen, und er wird Risiken eingehen, denn er hat nichts zu verlieren,” ist Mwangura überzeugt.

Sounds like a plausible explanation.

In a BBC article Mwangura explains:

Andrew Mwangura, who runs the Kenyan Seafarers’ Association in Mombasa, thinks that piracy has become a way of life for many young Somali men, as they simply do not know any better.

“All my life, I don’t know what life is, so if someone gives me a gun and tells me to go and make a living, they go and do that,” he said.

Many young men have no education and no understanding of the rule of law.

Somalia has no navy, so many militia groups have taken it on themselves to deal with the problem of illegal fishing.

“Illegal fishing costs Somalia $6m annually and around 800 vessels from around the world are involved,” says Mr Mwangura.

Pirate fisherman provide cheap fish for home markets, Somali pirates support their towns and villages. That raises a key question: is helping your own people good or bad?

Sounds noble. Like Robin Hood.

I think blaming poverty is a way of over-simplifying the situation. As Mwangura states the true beneficiaries of the ransoms are to be found elsewhere, probably in some air-conditioned building, lining their already well-stocked pockets. The pirates are just the foot soldiers. And they don’t know anything different.

Thirdly, the Somali pirates show how vulnerable the shipping business is. And how much our economic systems build on mutual trust.

And finally, this news item reminds me of Proverbs 30:

give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD ‘
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

This text sprung to mind. I heard it first in a remote village somewhere in Malawi many years ago.

2 thoughts on “Pirates and Poverty

  1. another report i saw on German TV emphasized that the pirates and especially the brains behind the attacks are well-equipped, and make use of latest technology to decide which ship they’ll attack next. There’s a ship information system sending out data such as name, size, number of crew members, type of load for every passing ship.

    add a huge area.

    see also: http://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/piraten124.html

  2. From what came through to our remote, remote village in the West 😉 , the captain first jumped off the vessel/boat (i.e. his second attempt to escape) and then the navy seals woke up and acted…

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