Zooming Piratestan                        



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Biyokulule Online

Part 1

April 01, 2009


Since its inception in 1998, Puntland chain of command offer little hope for good governance.  Our concept of, and commitment to good governance, which Puntland needs desperately, should now be apparent to all – and that is, if and only if Puntlanders want to free themselves from the curse of piracy, poverty, and lack of security.  Biyokulule Online’s previous literature expounded on relations between piracy and Puntland’s top chain of command, and even provided reliable sources in this connection.  Good governance works, and the failure to do so by our leaders led us to the chaos we are in; presently, Puntland shows a family fiefdom ruled more and more by one sub-clan and now pointed in one direction – pirate foothold.


In Somalia, privateers and sea scavengers have, of course, always existed. At times, it was an honored occupation that only skilled seafarers were allowed to do it.  To recall oral history, the earliest sea scavengers in what is now known as Puntland region sprang from swooping down on unsuspected sailing boats as well as shipwrecked sailors.


It was in the beginning of 19th century when Cape Guardafui area became known as the richest and wickedest area in Somalia.  Guardafui (which literally means “see and run from it”) was and still is infamous in Somalia for its powerful monsoon storms and swirling sea waves, which have been responsible for the loss of thousands of lives and sailing boats. It was a safe haven for the sea scavengers and pirates.  No more suitable location in Somalia for carrying pirate operations could have been found than Cape Guardafui.  Within a very short period of time, numerous bustling coastal settlements sprang up near the Cape, with several thousands of people.


These remarkable pirate colonies thrived from the riches plundered by the sea scavengers.  As long as these sea scavengers enjoyed the support of clan elders, all went well.  Some of the scavengers have even ruled these pirate settlements as chiefs and clan-leaders and continued to carry on their scavenging business.


Alarmed at the level of pillaging going on around the Cape, historian Wayne Durrill unveils a 40-page letter written by an American expeditionist, Charles Graves, some time in 1878.  In his letter, Graves described how sea scavengers preyed on shipwrecks and how the scourge of Cape Guardafui was made sacrosanct.  He wrote:


So important did shipwrecks become to the sultanate that in 1878 an American visitor among the Majeerteen reported: “A priest is stationed in the mountains near Cape Guardafui who prays day and night that God will drive Christian vessels ashore that they may plunder them! This was told me by the Chief of Hunda [Hurdia?] who regarded it as a very prudent, proper and pious precaution—he thinking I was a Moslem.”


Oral history could have thrown more light on the manners and customs of these 19th century pirates and the troubles of their victims; however, it is beyond the scope of this article to examine it fully.


Such details of ancient piracy seem as if it affected the mentality of today’s Puntland Administration.  Michael Weinstein, a Somali expert and professor of political science at Purdue University in the United States, said that "The Puntland regime, which had been seen as relatively stable, has basically crumbled … The administration there is honeycombed with officials with links to the pirates."   With its corrupted administrators, Puntland has became safe havens for sea pirates who use deadly weapons and speedboats to ambush all kinds of ships that navigate within and off Somali territorial waters.  These pirates chose small town ports like Eyl and Garacad as a base to organize pirate attacks.


Biyokulule Online would like to know more about who first financed these modern pirates.  This is in fact a pertinent question that needs to be answered.  We noted that several groups, from inside and abroad, finance and organize pirate operations.  According to Andrew Mwangura of the Kenyan branch of the Seafarer’s Assistance Programme, “A foreign ship pays a warlord [or in the case of Puntland, high ranking officials] to be allowed to fish illegally off Somalia, and that money then funds the piracy”. [Read Here]  In this process, hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been hurt or exploited, including the crew of those ships that have been hijacked.


The information collected by Biyokulule Online from various local sources reveal that once impoverished village in Garowe, Waaberi, has became safe havens for pirates and their agents.  Sources also disclose that Puntland authorities in Garowe are not willing to crack down Waaberi village, to force pirates to close their operative dwellings.


In the wake of such safe havens, sources also reveal that there is an actual coordination between Khat-peddlers and pirate operators in Puntland. Local sources, however, did not reveal whether khat-peddlers are among those who are financing pirate business.  On the contrary, it is the pirate kingpins who are using khat trading as a front business (in addition to businesses like hotels, restaurants etc.) to cover up their financial activities. They are also using Puntland officials and giving them money generously during elections.


The top brass of Puntland leadership seem now to be bought off by the kingpins running the booming pirate business.  A researcher at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Roger Middleton, said that “Top Puntland officials benefit from piracy, even if they might not be instigating it … All significant political actors in Somalia are likely benefiting from piracy”.  Thus, the above analysis suggests that the opportune quality of the punitive action against piracy should come from outside source – i.e. the International Community.


In Garacad, a small town in Puntland, pirates once persuaded locals to offer their services in exchange of money, and “each villager was promised 50 dollars”.  It took not that long when “70 villagers turned up to offer their services for guarding the boat and its crew”. [Read Here].  Thus, poor people from such places have full expectations that they would soon become as wealthy as these pirates; and of course, there is a considerable joy among people in other parts of Puntland, such as Garowe and Eyl. Their happiness was borne out of the expectation that this artificial pirate economy could transform Puntland into the great days of Piratestan.


To cite another example, poor young girls from rural area, who have left their homes, are now being exploited in places like Garowe and Eyl.  These girls are crazy about these “wealthy pirates who have attained near-celebrity status”.  A 19-year old girl, Rodo Abdullahi said, “It was every local girl’s dream to have such a grand wedding, but she said only pirates now had the funds to do it”. [Read Here]


Before these pirates emerged forcefully in coastal towns like Eyl, the main occupation of the people was fishing.  Consequently, many successful pirates came up with the specific dubious claim of protecting Somali fishing industry.   Another reason that pirates use as a justification to hijack is “the illegal dumping of toxic waste – a well-documented practice which is having severely adverse consequence for environment”. [Read Here]


Pirates expected that people will be on their side - i.e. that they will win people's hearts because they have justifications that can’t be rejected. However, people cannot be fooled endlessly or live on promises only.  After we have seen the glistening promises and the social problems that stems from piracy, people’s stance should be unified in rejecting piracy practices.


We are agonized over the highway seas robberies and ask what Puntland president and his administration are doing.  We are disturbed over the fact that pirates commit crimes but cannot be arrested, and if they are apprehended, they escape punishment. [Read Yassin Dheere’s story]. There is a need for ground-breaking changes in Puntland security departments.  In their present shape, agencies such as Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) and Puntland Darawish forces cannot do good job and appear to be increasingly dysfunctional to the limit of laying them off. These security forces failed to coordinate, organize, and exchange information and adopt a unified stance against piracy.  They also were unable to punish/extradite pirates, prohibit the sheltering of them, and block channels financing them.  Criticisms over these security forces’ inefficiency in combating piracy have in the past been publicly voiced by the International Community as well as locals.


Piratestan Leadership


It is, it is a glorious thing. To be a Pirate KingW.S. Gilbert, 1879


The illusion of a clan-political kingdom from which good governance will flow forth has taken hold of the Puntland Constitution in a disturbing way. Only the so-called House Members/National Assembly (66 members from different clans) has so far the right to select Puntland president.  Like his predecessor, the new Puntland leader, Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, won the majority of the 66 MPs’ votes by probably using pirate treasury as a personal bank.


What were they (MPs) thinking when they selected Farole?  We know that the task of Member of parliaments require good political judgment and wisdom.  Were they preoccupied with the philosophy of: select the pirate that will end pirates/piracy?  Or did they believe that Puntland must be made safe for Pirates – i.e. transform it into Piratestan?  I think the MPs and pirates both come from the same basket!


Nevertheless, this switch at the helm with Mohamud Hirsi Muse (Adde Muse) handing power to his kin Farole is not the change that Puntlanders hoped for.  For those who were clamouring for “change”, last January’s power transfer of power from “pirate-cadet” figure to “pirate-captain” figure stinks of nepotism/sub-clanism.


Without a doubt, many of those in Farole’s Reer Jarafle inner circle who had sought to die for their long-time pirate leader are now satisfied. Ironically, however, hours after Abdurahman Mohamed Farole won Puntland presidency, he said, “I will eliminate the piracy … and will deal with the security”.  What did he really meant by saying that?  Is he implying the old adage: little thieves are hanged, but great ones escape? In any case, no one in his/her right mind can be so naïve to think that Farole was serious about what he has said during what traditionally is considered as “honeymoon” period.  And to provide a case in point: after barely three months down the road, what is already clear is that all the talk of anti-piracy, accountability, and good governance has remained just talk. What is happening in practice is far from his “saving Puntland” mission in which Puntlanders had hopes of from their leadership.  Farole has yet to visit the pirate capital of Puntland, Eyl; and both his goodwill and hopes to tackle piracy (his campaign promises)  seem to be evaporating in the thin air. 


It is tempting to be both a president and a pirate at the same time.  In principle however, in Piratestan, this is not difficult to imagine; and Farole is possibly not the first Puntland leader who has managed, to a certain degree, to achieve this role or the first leader to abuse the official position of “Puntland President”.


It is not likely that the swapping captains in a fast-sinking pirate ship will help overcome Puntland’s political stalemate.  This means that the increasing one sub-clan hegemony against which Biyokulule Online has warned on several occasions is extended.  The Omni-present sub-clan (as we all Puntlanders know) became the supreme determiner of the fate of the many-clans that live in Puntland.  And since it continues to be so, this means the triumph of Piratestan, a sort of political madness that we are in – a situation in which only pirates know better about what is good for Puntlanders over whom they hijacked.


Clearly, January’s cosmetic change is not good enough.  What Puntlanders want is a new ship to navigate and a non-pirate captain that could chart a different course.  We are warning that Puntland’s relative stability will not last that long if no fast and correct political steps are taken according to Puntlanders’ aspirations.  But by seeking to go against the people’s aspirations with this year’s cosmetic changes, Farole and his inner circle have signed their death warrant. 


Stressing that sea piracy is an international phenomenon not confined to Somali territorial sea; we urge the pooling of international efforts to tackle the curse of piracy.  We remind the World Community that the only language that Piratestan leaders understand is hitting their treasure – pirate pockets.  We urge the World Community to spare no one in this farcical pirate fantasy and target those officials who only care their pockets, while hastening the ruin of an entire region of Somalia, Puntland. 


The recent UN report (released March 18, 2009), which was prepared through the joint efforts of Member States, the European Union (EU), and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), is intended to take a serious look at the possibility of collaboration between pirates and high ranking officials in Puntland Regional Government.  The report also draws attention to possible approaches to fighting piracy and suggests ways to earmark uniting the Member States, forces of the civil society, and regional organizations to counter piracy and armed robbery at sea off the coast of Somalia. [Read UN Report].


In keeping with the intention of UN report, Biyokulule Online attempts to provide a possible anti-piracy campaign, that is, to give the report a practical mouthpiece.  To jump start this “mouthpiece” role through zooming into news coverage is not an easy task and in fact calls for making tough journalistic decisions.  Faced with a situation where there are hundreds of clan-based media outlets (i.e. websites) that are a sort of tabloid sites, we will need tsunami efforts to push these obstacles aside.


Therefore, once again, Biyokulule Online brings together excerpts of news articles that relate to the transformation of Puntland Regional Government into Piratestan fiefdom.  The diversity of the news coverage and the quality of news sources ensure that this Piratestan series will have a lasting impact on our readers.  The theme that runs through this series is, of course, the emergence of sea piracy in Puntland, largely due to lack of an effective regional administration.  The series aims for readers who need a summarizing sketch of Piratestan`s evolution.  This in-depth zooming shows the importance of the agenda of truth-finding approach.  The series also offer its readers to focus and examine it again and again, in order to help them develop newer, more inclusive scrutiny to the underworld of Puntland’s privateers.  We hope that our selections will give you a well-rounded view from different angles.


Note: Piratestan means Meel Burcad Badeed u soo Hargasho (Land of the Pirates)


Roobdoon Forum

Toronto, Canada


The most lawless town in the most lawless country in the world



November 19, 2008


Demands increase for global action plan to protect sailors from rampaging pirates EXCLUSIVE


THE ultimate destination for the biggest prize ever captured on the high seas is believed to be the pirate capital of the world - the Somali port of Eyl.


In recent years, piracy has become Eyl’s main industry, with the buccaneers’ vast profits paying for sprawling mansions and expensive cars.


Piracy is now so slick in Eyl that special restaurants have been set up to prepare European food for crews of hijacked vessels.


The gangs know it is in their best interests to keep crews safe and well to secure the highest possible ransoms.


The whole Puntland region benefits from the maritime crime wave, but it is the few dozen pirates - mostly aged 20 to 35 - who actually take to the high seas that gain the richest rewards.


Abdi Farah Juha, who lives in the regional capital, Garowe, said: "They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns." He added: "They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day."


The pirates are said to be a mix of former fisherman, ex-militiamen and computer geeks who operate satellite surveillance systems and weaponry.


The EUR12million thought to be the ransom to free the Sirius Star and its 25 crew will be their biggest prize yet. Two Britons - the chief engineer and second officer - are among the crew.


One man who knows how they’re feeling is Brit Colin Darch who captained an ice-breaker held for 47 days this year.


When two speedboats full of pirates approached his vessel and began firing Kalashnikov rifles at the wheelhouse, Capt Darch, 70, quickly surrendered.


He said: "We were told if we behaved no one would get hurt. If we did something wrong, we would be shot.


"A US warship was in close attendance but dare not attack in case we got hit.


"We blacked out the ship and hid in the hope the US crew would get the message and attack. After 19 hours we gave ourselves up. They didn’t punish us but kept a much closer eye on us."


It is believed a ransom of EUR415,000 was agreed for their release.


Richard Clayton, of Fairplay International Shipping Weekly, said: "The Somalis are starving and at first it was just nicking stuff, perhaps rope and food.


"But they discovered if you could hijack an entire ship and take it south you could ransom the ship, its cargo and, most important, the crew."


Pirates wed the most beautiful girls, build big houses, have new cars and guns


© 2008 Mirror Group Ltd


Rise of piracy traced back 20 years; Somali area of Puntland has become a lawless pirate kingdom

David Blair

The Daily Telegraph

Vancouver Province

November 20, 2008


EYL, Somalia - The pirates who strike from Somalia’s lawless enclave of Puntland enjoy the esteem of those who bring immense wealth to their home region.


Last year, they made about $40 million from ransom payments alone. In the local capital of Bossaso, the shambolic Puntland’s government has an annual budget of only $30 million.


In Eyl, the traditional headquarters for Somalia’s ocean-going robbers, captured ships are anchored near the fast boats used by their captors.


Piracy has become the mainstay of the local economy. An entire industry has grown up around refitting the vessels used by the gangs.


When hostages are brought in, they must be fed during their long period in captivity. Some restaurants have reportedly been established especially for this purpose.


New villas are springing up and the streets are filled with expensive cars, but the pirates have been careful to reinvest some of their profits in faster boats with long-range radios and satellite-navigation systems.


This has allowed them to extend their area of operations deep into the Indian Ocean, while once they were only a coastal threat and large vessels could avoid them simply by remaining out at sea.


Eyl is patrolled by numerous militiamen who would threaten any mission to rescue the hostages held in the town.


All this takes place in the homeland of Somalia’s officially recognized "president," Abdullahi Yusuf. Holed up in the capital Mogadishu, where he barely controls a few districts of the city, Yusuf is a national leader in name only.


But the 73-year-old warlord was president of Puntland between 1998 and 2004. Yusuf comes from the Darod clan, who form the majority in Puntland. But he is unlikely to have any control over his piratical clansmen. Without their efforts, the enclave’s economy would probably collapse.


© Copyright © 2008 Vancouver Province




New York Post

November 23, 2008


A visit to the remote coastal village of Eyl in Somalia, videotaped by a tourist in 2006 and posted on YouTube, notes that only two cars had visited the "lost town" of stone buildings and dirt roads in two weeks. Two years later, SUVs patrol the roads, new, expansive compounds have highspeed Internet connections, and there are jobs for restaurateurs, builders - even publicists.


Boom times have come to Piratetown.


In this lawless village in a lawless nation, the pirates are the power, the economy, the heroes. Sporting Western gangsta clothes and Kalashnikov rifles, the pirates spend millions - ransoms pocketed from foreign companies for hijacked ships - on electronics, a chewed narcotic called khat and multiple wives. They’ve become so successful - and brazen - that this week they attacked their biggest target yet: A Saudi Arabian oil tanker bound for the US.


"Everyone wants to be a pirate, the job application list is quite long," says John Burnett, author of "Dangerous Waters," a book about global piracy. "Two years ago there were 100. Now there’s 1,200. I was told by one pirate that it’s what his son hopes to be when he grows up."


All along the Puntland region of the Somali coast, on the Horn of Africa, there are signs of new construction as pirate houses - usually built from cement or stone and surrounded by high security gates - spring up. Pirates wheel around the villages in souped up SUVs and Toyota Land Cruisers - favored because they’re easy to maintain and modify with assault rifles.


Pirates have made an estimated $150 million in ransoms this year, according to the Kenyan government. But the bulk of that wealth goes to the pirates’ handlers - usually Somali warlords or cartel leaders living in Europe or the Middle East.


"The Somali pirates are the ones taking all the risk and get only a small share of the reward. But even that is enough to launch them into the stratosphere of the wealthy in Somalia," says a reporter working in the region.


Somali pirates divvy up what’s left following a simple rule: the man who carries the biggest gun gets the biggest cut.


"Pirates, the footsoldiers, have to bring their own weapons to a job, and the one who carries an RGB Winchester will get paid more than the one who has an AK-47, for example," a Mogadishu-based businessman who works with pirates told The Post. Pirates who finish a job and collect their ransom go on khat sprees, often traveling to large cities to spend a weekend in a luxurious hotel suite. They also warehouse hard-to-get food items like rice, pasta and beef and goat meat for their families. They build Arab-influenced houses, whitewashed on the outside, with anywhere from five to 10 rooms and graceful arches.


Those who routinely pull in a sizeable slice of the ransom action might also try to take a second, or possibly even third wife - a status symbol in impoverished Somalia, where most men can only afford to marry once, even though Islamic law permits four wives.


Other in-demand items include satellite phones, big screen TVs to watch Al-Jazeera and CNN, and lots of gold for family members.


"They buy multiples of everything - many cars, many cell phones, lots of TVs," said the Mogadishu businessman. "I once had a pirate tell me he bought 10 mobile phones in a month. Every few days he gave his old one away and bought a new one."


The pirate activity is a boon to surrounding villages that have been dormant for nearly 20 years, giving rise to restaurants, Internet cafes, cigarette kiosks, clothing stores and more.


Sometimes the towns are even complicit in the kidnappings: caterers from local restaurants are hired to cook Western food for kidnapped crews.


"The pirates are the biggest business in town. Why would anyone want to do or say something that would make that business stop?" the reporter says.


But the proliferation of the pirates - the hijackings have tripled from two years ago, and 12 ships were hijacked over nine days this month - may lead to the criminal industry’s downfall. Islamic leaders inside Somalia have objected to hijacking ships from Islamic countries.


And foreign powers have gotten more aggressive about defending steamers and cargo ships passing through the Gulf of Aden. Last week pirates had to battle the Indian Navy steaming to the rescue of one of its tanker after Somali raiders seized it.


Meanwhile, the recent spate of hijackings has included two targets that have drawn the interest of the American military: The Saudi Arabian supertanker Sirius Star, which holds a crew of 25 and $100 million in oil, and the MV Faina, a Ukranian arms ship bound for Kenya.


The ship held 33 Russian tanks, antiaircraft guns, grenade launchers, and numerous lighter weapons that the pirates likely were able to offload before foreign powers - afraid the machinery would fall into the wrong hands - intervened and surrounded the ship.


Now the Faina is trapped at sea, with pirates aboard demanding $20 million to release it and the crew. It’s a powder-keg situation that could backfire on the pirates who might not fully comprehend the danger they are in.


That goes double for the pirates currently controlling Sirius Star, which is loaded with valuable - and volatile - crude oil.


"These pirates have no idea that they’re sitting on a bomb. This is a floating bomb - you cannot have any sparks on the deck," Burnett says. "You’re not allowed to have a plastic cigarette lighter, much less a mobile phone or a camera. Anything that has an electric current, that isn’t well cosseted in layers and layers of rubber, is combustible."


It won’t just be the Sirius that explodes. Any wrong move, and the pirates will take down Eyl - and perhaps an entire country - with them.




Attacks by Somali pirates have increased to more than 90 so far this year, compared to 31 in 2007 (Kenyan officials estimate that pirates have extorted $150 million in ransom in 2008).


They have plenty of targets - more than 20,000 ships travel around the Horn of Africa each year. Here are the locations of this year’s attacks, according to the United Nations, plus four of the 17 ships still in pirate hands.


Stolt Strength


Hijacked: Nov. 10


A chemical tanker, managed by a Panamanian company, is carrying phosphoric acid. Its 21 Filipino crewmembers are being held hostage.




Hijacked: Nov. 18


A Hong Kong cargo ship carrying 38,000 tons of wheat destined for Iran. The ship was taken to Somalia, and its 25 crew members are being held hostage.




Hijacked: Sept. 25


A Ukrainian ship allegedly delivering Russian-made tanks, anti-aircraft guns and ammunition to Kenya. The pirates claim to have found documents saying the ship is really headed for Sudan. The US military has surrounded the ship to make sure it doesnt off –load weapons. The pirates are asking for $20M.


Sirius Star


Hijacked: Nov. 15


The largest ship ever captured by pirates, this Saudi Arabian supertanker holds about $100 million in crude oil. It was en route to the US. The ship is being held off the coast of Harardhere for $25M in ransom. Islamic leaders in Somalia oppose its capture.


© 2008 N.Y.P. Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.


See also this Australian video on Puntland piracy:






Adde Muse, former Piratestan President  ( 2005-2008 )



Adde Muse and Piratestan president Farole, January 08, 2009




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