By Asha Abdalla
Editor’s note’s : This is an excerpt from an upcoming book titled Somalia failing due to bad leadership by Asha Ahmed Abdalla, a political activist and former parliamentarian and Assistant Minister.
Somalia is a victim of different politically motivated foreign meddlers and interest groups whose long-term agenda is preferentially aimed at dismantling the beleaguered nation’s strategically important position and manipulate its vital explored or unexploited and exploited or unexplored natural resources. This horrific and uncalled for rendezvous miscalculated grandiose actions causes a lot of damage in the Horn of Africa. In a nutshell, foreign interferences and unnecessary proxy wars facilitated by self-centered interest groups dissipated every concerted effort to build mutual trust among contending parties. On the other hand, the protracted and continued conflict prolongs human suffering, undermines human coexistence, triggers human displacement, creates clusters of clan-based mini-states, accelerates the exodus of new terrified, famished refugees, and opens a path for small arms proliferation consequently inflicting damage across a wide margin.
Without an iota doubt, the widely visible consortium of greedy, bloodletting groups like the marauding warlords, destructive NGOs, materialistic businessmen, and fundamentalist or Islamic fanatics are to blame for the devastation and the civil unrest visible in Somalia to this day. Many of Somalia’s intentionally and stealthily handpicked guntotting hired goons who were forced onto the peace loving citizen by habitual foreign meddlers with hidden agendas, preposterously failed in many peace processes that were held occasionally in various locations. Undoubtedly, they received massive monetary and financial support, weapons and ammunition, and sometimes military and political assistance from these foreign countries:
- Saudi Arabia
- The United Arab Emirates
- Qatar and
- The United States of America
Some of the countries mentioned above have differing and conflicting agendas such as historical territorial disputes with Somalia (Kenya and Ethiopia), reclaiming the waters of the Nile River (Ethiopia and Egypt), controlling the international maritime shipping lanes of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea that lead to the famous Suez Canal in Egypt (the USA and Western Europeans), and linguistic interests with the French keeping an eye on its former, tiny colony, Djibouti, that is predominantly Somali-speaking; Arabic-speaking countries struggled to safeguard their religious and historical heritage with Somalia that has Islam as the dominant religion; Italy ensured it had a hand in Somalia, because, until Somalia’s independence in 1960, southern Somalia used to be under Italian domain and that the land was known as Italian-Somaliland; while Britain jostled to inflate its global superiority that plummeted with the demise of its imperial superpower-dom during the 19th century. Worth mentioning, northern Somalia (historically British-Somaliland) was a British protectorate until the final unification of northern and southern Somali territories on July 1, 1960. The political and military imbroglio between these neighboring and foreign entities in Somalia since the collapse of the central government in Mogadishu was a clear indication that the once powerful Horn of African nation was up for grabs. While some struggled to control it, others ventured to own it for good.
The harrowing tales of the international mafia vigorously involving itself in futile attempts to occupy the Somali coastline is no secret. In the absence of a strong, viable Somali government that would safeguard internationally recognized territorial waters, the Mafiosi came armed to the teeth in order to blatantly rob Somalia’s maritime resources and consequently deplete the little remaining fish that was the mainstay of many economically afflicted Somali fishing communities that were struggling to make ends meet. The mafia, working in cahoots with armed Somali syndicates, even took the corral reeves where fishes hatch their eggs. Such horrendous, calculated acts, in turn, devastated the fish population and economic growth of Somalia.
Ironically, the sudden rise of Asian and European fishing trawlers illegally fishing inside Somalia’s territorial waters using internationally prohibited fishing nets was a collective attempt to steal and deplete precious tuna, mackerel, lobsters and other precious maritime gems that were highly in demand in the hotel conglomerations and restaurants of those countries involved in the illegal fishing industry. Thus, seeing the deplorable state of their maritime resources and the wanton theft of their precious fishes, Somali fisherman cooperated to safeguard their pristine waters from foreign invaders. In turn, powerful media houses in the West raised the alarm and embarked on a propaganda warfare whose main aim was to discredit the courageous Somali fishermen who took up arms to challenge the forces that invaded the internationally recognized Somali continental shelf.
Seeing the strength and collective efforts of the armed Somali fishermen and the deadly blows they wrought on the illegal trawlers, Western nations established an illegally sanctioned maritime force complete with sophisticated destroyers, frigates, and auxiliaries for replenishing other vessels at sea and even massive ultra-modern Aircraft Carriers. The term ‘piracy’ or the connotation ‘pirate’ is a Western invention just as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) is a Western creation. Doing so spurs arm sales for Western arms manufacturers that consequently lead to economic growth, create employment opportunities, and give political leverage to gerrymandering, power hungry political juggernauts struggling to elevate ideals such as imperialism, liberalism, conservatism, and unmatched global hegemony. Rekindling social and political tensions especially in vulnerable or emerging Muslim countries deemed special in terms of strategic and geopolitical positioning. and specific nations laden with exploitable natural resources that are highly in demand in industrialized nations has accelerated in modern times especially after the collapse of the former mighty USSR.
The illegal fishing frenzy orchestrated by foreign fishing trawlers destroyed the livelihoods of many struggling Somali fishing communities who have been dependent on the meager resources generated from fishing along the Somali coasts. With the rise in foreign fishing piracy, Somali communities residing along the coastlines organized themselves to fight against what they called international pirates/piracy. After a while, out of overwhelming desperation, the Somali fishing community complained to various global conferences and world organizations including the United Nations. They wrote as much as they could, detailing their grievances but received no credible answers. Somalis believed they had been disregarded in the eyes of the international community. There was even a written letter addressed to this particular peace conference taking place in Nairobi, Kenya that had a sizable number of Somali delegates. The letter addressed how illegal fishing affected Somali maritime coasts, the horrors of fishing depletion and how it affected local fishermen and the impact illegal fishing had on the environment.
Regardless of their vulnerability, delicate strength and diaphanous shipwright craftsmanship affected Somali fishing communities put together iron-willed fishermen as coastguards exclusively for the defense of Somali territorial waters. In essence, some of the fishermen-turned-coastguards may have misused the powers conferred upon them by their philanthropic financiers, however, in reality, to a greater portion of the Somali community who were bitter about Western hypocrisy and their failure to protect Somali territorial integrity, these newly-created coastguards who were pejoratively described as pirates by the Western media, did wonders by keeping many fishing foreign scavengers at bay. The Somali community living in the Sanaag region of Somalia-a community known to have a strong sense of pride and nationalism since time immemorial-overwhelmingly condemned the ravenous nature Somali natural resources was either being vandalized, destroyed or stolen at will by rapacious and opportunistic foreign mercenaries.
The absence of a strong Somali government with a formidable maritime force and the negligence of the international community to counter international mafia menace, invigorated many unemployed youths. With the exponential increase of fish processing trawlers known as motherships traversing Somali territorial waters with ease, the creation of a Somali coastguard squadron armed with Russian-made Kalashnikov tilted the scale of balance leading to the rise of a new global competition. Surprisingly, these illegal motherships, which processed stolen Somali fish in secret maritime locations, came from different countries around the world, exclusively to deplete or pollute Somali maritime resources and continue with their illegal fishing activities unabated.
Since I was the Minister of the DDR, Environment, and Federalism, at the same time working in the peace conference in Kenya, I wrote a letter to the International Community on behalf of the elders of Sanaag region who requested the letter to be delivered immediately. That letter was preceded by one from the elders that was directly addressed to me. The elder’s letter was very clear and showing the urgency and pinpointed what was happening in their region. Having seen the illegal things going on in the Somali lands, I had to give recommendations to the Somali committees especially those responsible for deliberating on land and property rights. However, it was the sole responsibility of the Somali people to stand up and save their beloved country. What I was afraid at that time was the pirates and the illegal attempts by the outsiders that were making the overall Somali situation worse while Somali coast guards struggled over the security of the long coastal line. Therefore, to overcome the problem, they needed urgent assistance from the International Community. To help the people of Sanaag region beat the odds and resolve the recurring security dispute that transformed their region ungovernable and unmanageable, I wrote this letter to the concerned international organizations while at the same time copying it to others who were involved in the Somali reconciliation conference in Mbagathi, Kenya. The letter has been edited, modified and updated for clarity, however, the message it conveyed remains unchanged.
Wednesday, 07, April 2004.
To: International Ocean Conservation
To: International Organization against Oceans Pollution
CC: International Community
CC: Somali Intellectuals
Re: Warnings and large scale resistance the world is aware of all the actions happening currently after the fall of the last Somali regime in 1991. Many people invade the Somali coastline; these included the dreaded Mafia of Europe and Asia and local Somali militias (bandits) who have taken advantage of the lawlessness and the proliferation of the illegal trade by those in Somalia. Seeing the enormity of the prevailing circumstances, many people (foreigners) have abused and misused the natural resources belonging to all Somalis. Some of their detrimental activities are: Pollution of the coastline through dumping of toxic chemicals, nuclear waste and other hazardous materials, and over fishing using prohibited nets which deplete the ocean of all marine life.
On the 19th February 2004, in a BBC interview, the Minister for Fisheries in Abdullah Yussuf’s administration of Puntland, informed the world that there were 1,000 fishing vessels in the coastline of Puntland. His ministry had issued permits and registered only 7 ships; however, because it was daylight robbery, looting of property by criminals and the pilfering of the Somali maritime resources continued unabated. The main culprit was one owned by the land company called SOMCAN, which replaced another one by the name of Hart Group which was illegally fishing in the Somali Puntland waters for over 3 years. Amazed and shocked, we were to learn that SOMCAN vessels invaded Las Korey fishermen in their own waters and destroyed their fishing gear and boats as well. Also, other innocent Somali people plying Somali waters in boats and ferrying building materials were attacked.
This kind of intimidation aimed at keeping off all other persons out of sight except SOMCAN fleet is not right to every fisherman. It also means no one has the right to fish to survive except the pitiless mafia pirates and their collaborators. The fishermen affected in the previous attacks were the sole suppliers of fish white meat Tuna to the fish factory in northern Somalia at Las Korey Fishing Cannery. We highly condemn the activities of SOMCAN Company for deliberately and irresponsibly depleting the maritime resources of Puntland and in particular for sabotaging Sanaag waters.
We urge them as a matter of urgency to leave and withdraw all their vessels immediately and heed the warning that Sanaag East is out of bounds for non-residents. SOMCAN and other illegal groups are hereby warned to keep off East Sanaag coastline. We are prepared to take action against all invaders no matter who they are, if this warning is ignored, be warned again, profound loss of property in unavoidable in future encounters. We also kindly request the international organization concerned with safeguarding of international waters to ensure all those who suffered in the illegal activities, of the SOMCAN Co., to facilitate speedy compensation for the loss of life and property incurred by Sanaag East fishermen.
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