Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Trouble with Pirates

There's an interesting program on the BBC's iPlayer called "The Trouble with Pirates" - you should be able to get it by clicking here (but quickly, it runs out soon).

It tells the story of the pirates from many angles: the sailors they captured, the boat owners, the negotiators - in London and onsite, the navies sent against them and the pirates themselves. 

The irony is that the roots of the problem were caused by the actions of the West. The program notes how the first pirates were the fishermen, driven from their legal trade by factory ships from overseas and dumping of toxic waste. 
What the program didn't cover was what caused this: the West's decision to actively encourage Kenya to invade and attack the governing body, the Islamic Courts Union. The Bush's administrations hostility to the the I-word was to have an unexpected blow-back, with chaos spreading from the land out into the waters.

And there are an awful lot of waters to patrol. The Somali coastline is about the length of the USA's eastern seaboard and the pirates strike many hundreds of miles out to sea.

The "trade" has brought in millions upon millions of dollars. Those who do not participate suffer as inflation drives up the cost of essentials like rice and fish. Pirate enterprises are floated on a "stock market" so that communities can participate in the risk and gain some of the reward.

Two stories in particular were highlighted: the Lemacon's on the French yacht the Tanit and the British Chandlers.

Controversially the Tanit was stormed by French commando's and the skipper Florent Lemacon was killed in front of his wife and son. Ironically the only westerner killed so far was shot not by Somalis but by his own countrymen.
The news about the Chandlers is of course welcome but a long term solution is no closer.

Only by bringing some sort of order to the land can the pirates be tamed, and yet the provisional government is badly funded and peace will likely require some form of involvement of the ICU.

This won't be the last documentary about Somai pirates - though it is a good one, worth catching.

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