In Somalia, it seems, crime does pay. Actually, it is one of the few industries that does.
“All you need is three guys and a little boat, and the next day you’re millionaires,” said Abdullahi Omar Qawden, a former captain in Somalia’s long-defunct navy.
People in Garoowe, a town south of Boosaaso, describe a certain high-rolling pirate swagger. Flush with cash, the pirates drive the biggest cars, run many of the town’s businesses — like hotels — and throw the best parties, residents say. Fatuma Abdul Kadir said she went to a pirate wedding in July that lasted two days, with nonstop dancing and goat meat, and a band flown in from neighboring Djibouti.
“It was wonderful,” said Ms. Fatuma, 21. “I’m now dating a pirate.”
This is too much for many Somali men to resist, and criminals from all across this bullet-pocked land are now flocking to Boosaaso and other notorious pirate dens along the craggy Somali shore. They have turned these waters into the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world.
Nor is it even clear whether Somali authorities universally want the piracy to stop. While many pirates have been arrested, several fishermen, Western researchers and more than a half-dozen pirates in jail spoke of nefarious relationships among fishing companies, private security contractors and Somali government officials, especially those working for the semiautonomous regional government of Puntland.
“Believe me, a lot of our money has gone straight into the government’s pockets,” said Farah Ismail Eid, a pirate who was captured in nearby Berbera and sentenced to 15 years in jail. His pirate team, he said, typically divided up the loot this way: 20 percent for their bosses, 20 percent for future missions (to cover essentials like guns, fuel and cigarettes), 30 percent for the gunmen on the ship and 30 percent for government officials.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Reported in the NYTimes as Somalia’s Pirates Flourish in a Lawless Nation