May 292009

Those friendly pirates off Somalia, known colloquially as the Somali Marines since that is what some of them have claimed to be, have promised to give up thieving ships, according to a report by the BBC. Could it really be all over?

Some 200 pirates gathered in Puntland, met with local government officials and what are described as expatriate Somalis and promised to give up their happy life robbing everything that moved on the high seas.

A call has been put out by pirates at the meeting for those holding vessels to release them and their crew.

The BBC says that part of the reason for the call to give up piracy is because it is corrupting the communities involved and it is anti-Islam.

It is notable that the only time piracy has slumped was when the radical Islamists held the Somali capital Mogadishu and the fear of corrupting communities and anti-Islamic activities may have a certain ring to it when radicalism seems to provide the only certainty in a uncertain world.

The chances are that there has been diplomatic back-channeling to persuade the Puntland leadership, some of whom are alleged to be taking kickbacks from the pirates, that it has to stop.

Recently, the Somali government appealed to the international community to help it build a coast guard that can take action against toxic waste dumpers and illegal fishing vessels, activities that are encouraging piracy.

Such help should certainly be given, but with an eye to history. A previous attempt to set up a coastguard involved a ‘private contractor’ whose deal finally fell through, leaving behind highly trained, unemployed men who decided to go into business on their own.


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