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Piracy: The MultiMillion Business

On 22nd Feb 2011, Somali pirates executed the four American citizens they captured on 18th Feb 2011. It is believed that the pirates suspected the American army’s plan to rescue their captives.

On April 12th 2009, the American army rescued Richard Phillips who was the captain of the Maersk Alabama, a cargo ship that Somali pirates boarded on its way to Mombassa on 7th April 2009. This rescue mission gave pirates an experience to be extra careful with whom they deal with and how they negotiate. In the process of rescuing Captain Phillips, the American army shot three of the pirates and captured Abdiwali Muse alive.

Muse was a seventeen year old high school student who got involved in piracy in 2009. It was reported that some gang pirates recommended him to join since they earned a lot of money each time they hijacked a ship. Muse has been sentenced to thirty three years and nine months prison in New York.

Piracy in Somalia has been a growing concern off the coast of Somalia since 2005. It started as a result of angry fishermen whose fishing boats had been destroyed by foreign vessels that were fishing illegally near the Somali coast. Those fishermen hijacked some vessels and demanded ransom. Foreign vessels used to fish unlawfully near the Somali coast and deposit toxic materials on the coast ever since 1990 when the Somali central government collapsed.

The owners of the hijacked ships paid ransom for their safe release. Many unemployed young men became pirates since 2005 due to the millions of dollars each captured ship paid for its release.

Countries like Germany, Britain, and many others sent warships and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fight pirates. Still pirates hijack ships far away from the Somali coast. The last incident was that of the four American citizens in Feb 2011.

Somali pirates are a threat not only to the international community and ships passing along the sea but also to Somali society. The large amount of money pirates receive causes inflation increasing prices of goods. The pirates consume alcohol and drive rashly causing tragic accidents. They also snatch girls, carry them in their vehicles and rape them.

One of the tragic incidents that I can recall in Galkayo Somalia was on 29th September 2010 when two gunmen knocked on a well respected homemaker’s door and took her at gun point. These two gunmen were reported to be her neighbours whom she had advised previously to leave piracy. They took her in to a discrete place, raped her and left her there. I tried contacting her for an interview but she refused due to social stigma. Luckily her niece agreed to talk to me.

Mostly it is the lack of job opportunities that drives youth to join the multimillion dollar business of piracy. This affects women as well.

Piracy was not born within the sea. It is based and begins on land. If the international community spends one-third of the money it invests in fighting piracy to establish vocational training schools for youth, things would change for the better. If youth acquire jobs skills that help them sustain their lives they would not dream of putting themselves at risk. The best way to solve a problem is to fight its root cause and not its effects.

As a professional and a university graduate, I believe that youth in Somalia need vocational skills to sustain their lives. Once they acquire those skills they can create jobs for themselves by starting small business enterprises. They can work and sustain themselves even if they do not get employed by non-governmental organizations or intergovernmental organizations. Most agencies prefer to hire candidates who studied outside the country and everyone can not afford to go abroad to study university.

Equipping youth with job skills is the only win-win approach to eliminate piracy and everyone will benefit from this. Youth who acquire vocational skills can sustain their lives. Other members of the community will also live happily without the fear of pirates and the international community would be relieved from the threat and tension of pirates.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.



Sarvina's picture

Hi Ruun, congratulations for

Hi Ruun,

congratulations for your final piece! Well-done...:)




Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Ruun Abdi's picture

Thank you so much ma

Thank you so much ma dear.



Farona's picture

Ruun ! This is a wonderful

Ruun !

This is a wonderful piece highlighting the affects on somali society on piracy, so often we hear till ..’The pirates hijacked another group of people’ that’s it!

Did anyone ever imagine that piracy lead to inflationary tendencies in the economy? Logically, it should but we hardly pay attention deeper issues. Too much money chasing to few goods, only benefitting a few!
I can imagine how easy it is to lure unemployed youths into piracy. I love this line when you mention “Piracy was not born within the sea. It is based and begins on land. If the international community spends one-third of the money it invests in fighting piracy to establish vocational training schools for youth, things would change for the better”

Wonderful piece of work !

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Sis, Thanks for the

Dear Sis,

Thanks for the lovely comment! in fact, piracy causes many problems within and outside the country. Puntland state government has started to fight with it but you know its kinda of difficult to eliminate it at one time. again youth are about 70% of the population and most of them are unemployed. imagine that "Harram" money they are receiving us ransom and bringing it back to the community!

Lots of love,

You are courageous and I commend you for writing this timely piece on such a crucial International issue. The future of the next generation is at stake.
Thank you!

Eunice E. V.

Ruun Abdi's picture

Thank you so much my dearest

Thank you so much my dearest friend and mentor for lovely inspiring comment you left me. Happy to see your comment here.
This is an issue that needs to be overcome nationally and internationally as its a threat to all. At first i thought of changing the topic then I convinced ma self if I don't share it with the rest of the world how I and many others feel about these issues, the way it started and what could be the best way to eliminate it then am fooling ma self as well as my community. In Islam these actions are "Harram" meaning its forbidden to loot people's properties neither to terror them let alone killing innocent people. But all these happen at the hands of pirates and they do cause many problems. Rape has also increased these days. Hope soon things would change into better.


What an informative piece! I really had no idea that Somalian piracy began as a result of Somali fisherman losing their boats to foreign vessels that were fishing illegally off the coast of Somalia. I also was totally unaware of foreign ships dumping poisons in Somalian waters.

I now also understand how deeply Somalian society is affected by outlaw youths who have grown powerful with ransom money. This situation is yet another example of how violence begets an ever-widening, ever-escalating circle of violence in the world. You are brave to stay in Somalia and try to find solutions. I salute you, my dear Ruun!

Nancy Siegel

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Nancy, Thank you so much

Dear Nancy,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read ma post and get back to me with such a lovely inspiring comment. It's true that most people who are not in Somalia are not well aware of how piracy started in the first place neither what it caused within the country!. There were even some warlords who have been accused for taking money and allowing some foreign industries to dump toxic materials off the Somali coast, but since the country was without a central government for over two decades there was nothing to be done for those guyz. It's getting worse from day to day as these youth receive millions of dollars, they hijack innocent people including kids, they used to require ransom from the trading ships now it reached a point they are hijacking touring people and ask them for ransom. What a pity for the youth in Somalia!

MBogue's picture

Great job on your article!

Hi Ruun,

Excellent work on your op-ed piece! You selected an interesting and important topic, so thank you for bringing it to all of our attention on World Pulse! You definitely showed how this issue inspires you, especially with some sincerely stunning lines such as, "Piracy was not born within the sea." I think you did a great job of explaining the problem, and a fabulous job of proposing a solution. I loved how you distinguished between tackling the root of piracy versus tackling the effects of it, so way to go! Thank you for sharing such an informative and thoughtful piece with us!

Keep up the great reporting!

Ruun Abdi's picture

Dear Maura, Thank you so much

Dear Maura,

Thank you so much for going through ma post and leaving me with such encouraging comment. It's the best way to tackle the root causes of every problem instead of just trying to solve the effect it caused. Mostly it is the coastal area where pirates operate or have domains and most of those places are very calm compared to the southern zone of Somalia which is still burning (i.e. the fights between the so-called federal government and al-shabab). Therefore, if the youth in these places get employment, higher education and well trained Somali coastal guards then most of these horrible acts could have been eliminated, and until these three points have resolved nothing of the sort will be achieved. I hope one day I will be able to see all these insecurity problems have been eliminated in our homeland.

Warmest regards,

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Root cause

Dear Ruun Abdi,

I really like the line "Piracy was not born within the sea. It is based and begins on land". Your solutions oriented discussion about how we can combat poverty and lack of jobs on land, and thereby reduce the need for piracy, is just brilliant. I would love to have heard a bit more about how the women in your community are affected as well, or a few more details about your interview with the neighbors niece. Your article is succinct and has some great points!

Keep up the good work,


"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Ruun Abdi's picture

Women in Somalia have been

Women in Somalia have been severely affected by the pirates. One simple example is the town I live after 6:30Pm I can’t go to town or even nearby shops to buy something, in fact no woman can walk alone after that hour even if she has to do something very important. The other thing is that these pirates once they receive their ransom they all buy beer and other drugs and get dunk and they go looking for girls/women, they snatch them, carry in their vehicles and they rape them. Sometimes they take them at gun point. Also they go to the IDP camps and either takes girls from their places to a discrete place or they rape them in front of their spouses, children or relatives. One of the tragic incidents I have heard was women who have been raped within the IDP camps whose husbands have been tied up. Actually I can say piracy and pirates is a virus within the community which destroys the community's reputation. Also the HIV/AIDs is increasing as well due to this.

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