Under one of the complexes with nine floors or more, I pause to wonder at the developments in this neighborhood, which just a few months ago seemed too familiar to me. Now I can only just recognize the place I call home. As I consider these changes, a loose piece of timber bolts from somewhere atop the building and, with a thud, lands a few meters away from me, barely missing a young man walking under the building.
At first the man stands tongue-tied—then
he launches into a profuse diatribe about Somali pirates and the hasty and
reckless structures they are putting up. This building, he says aloud, has been
made possible by piracy money. As I watch him turn a corner and disappear
behind another high-rise building, my curiosity about this small and
fast-changing Somali neighborhood in
I travel to Eyl, a small village in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland that is the epicenter of the now infamous ship-hijacking trade. This small town used to be a fishing resort for the locals but all that has changed: abandoned wooden boats, and dirty, sandy beaches are everywhere. A woman helpfully directs me to a big house unlike the surrounding ramshackle structures. She says it is a meeting point for pirates. As the watchman opens the main gate, I feel like I am in a big capital city with cars parked inside the compound and comfy sofa sets all over the place. The house is incredibly beautiful.
“Hello. Welcome. You seem new here, what can we do for you?” says one of the more than 10 men chewing khat. I introduce myself and as seconds turned to minutes, the men become comfortable with me. These men, it turns out, are pirates. And they begin to tell me their side of the story.
“We started this trade because some countries are destroying our livelihood by dumping toxic materials into our sea,” says a man named Mohamed who is sipping coffee. “We are also up against the illegal fishing that takes place here.”
To the far right is a man about 70 years old with a bushy beard that is slowly taking over his round face. I am told he is the ringleader. “We are only waiting for the monsoon period to end and this time we will strike hard,” says Guled Mohamed.
On this Friday, the team is busy organizing the food to take to hostages held in different locations. Men clad in local Somali regalia crisscross the verandah. The team offers to take me to a group of Asian hostages secured at an island miles away. I agree to go.
Along the route, a confrontation ensues between the pirates
onboard while deep in the
After more than four hours roaming the
My Sony H4 Zoom recorder is my only companion as I keep the
record button on, making sure that I leave evidence even if they end my life. At
this point, I reflect on my initial questions that led me to this mission: Who
is behind this trade and does it have links to the development that is on going
Eventually, they release me, but not before a parting shot:
Western forces must respect
But I was adamant and wanted to get a story. Pausing and
gauging my tone, I slowly whispered, “Do you have cohorts in
In a deep, husky voice, Guled answered, “Yes we do. Not just
The International Maritime Bureau lists the Somali coast as one of the most dangerous waterways. For those who perceive the current calm in piracy off the Gulf of Aden as an end of sea piracy, Somali pirates are asking you to think again. The men, who earned themselves the nickname “The Robin Hoods of the Sea,” say they are still in action and are strategizing.
Kassim Mohamed is a freelance journalist based in East Africa who has contributed stories from Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Uganda to Current TV.