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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Somali Pirates: Money Talks

The is a saying among some employers that employee motivation is not driven by money - that there are other, more complex factors that cause workers to work hard.

There might be such complex factors at play with the pirates of Somalia, but money sure seems to be the starting point for many of the pirates, as set out in this BBC News report Somali pirates living the high life:
"They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day," says Abdi Farah Juha who lives in the regional capital, Garowe.

Pirates guard the crew on the MV Faina
The crew on MV Faina are reportedly being well-looked after

"They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns," he says.

"Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable."

Most of them are aged between 20 and 35 years - in it for the money.

And the rewards they receive are rich in a country where almost half the population need food aid after 17 years of non-stop conflict.

Most vessels captured in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden fetch on average a ransom of $2m.

This is why their hostages are well looked after.

The BBC's reporter in Puntland, Ahmed Mohamed Ali, says it also explains the tight operation the pirates run.

They are never seen fighting because the promise of money keeps them together.

Wounded pirates are seldom seen and our reporter says he has never heard of residents along Puntland's coast finding a body washed ashore.

Given Somalia's history of clan warfare, this is quite a feat.

It probably explains why a report of a deadly shoot-out amongst the pirates onboard the MV Faina was denied by the vessel's hijackers.

Pirate spokesman Sugule Ali told the BBC Somali Service at the time: "Everybody is happy. We were firing guns to celebrate Eid."
Further, as the article notes, the pirates assert they are performing a public service by patrolling the Somali coast as "coast guards" - creating their own mythology along the lines of Robin Hood or Jesse James as they indiscriminately grab fishing boats, freighters, tankers and World Food Program shipping, often venturing well beyond any possible Somali territorial or economic zone waters.

That they are gathering "rock star" status- in addition to wealth beyond the imaginings of most impoverished Somalis - may be just a bonus to them.

That status is another factor that forces opposing the pirates need to bear in mind as they try to contain the Somali pirates.

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