Everyone is talking about Somali pirates and piracy in African waters in general. Considering the recent hostage situation involving an American ship captain and many other similar incidents, it is easy to understand why Somali piracy has become a huge subject of discussion across the world, forcing non-African heads of state and others to make bold and sometimes aggressive statements about the situation. Clearly, the waters around Somalia can be dangerous, but it seems that the whole world is talking about how to address the issue without any significant input from Africans themselves.
At this moment, there are a lot of people in the Gulf of Aden. In fact, save for the Somali pirates stirring up a hornet's nest, there are a lot of non-Africans patrolling African waters in the Gulf of Aden. Given the swift response time with which American battle ships were able to impose their presence on the young pirates who held American Richard Phillips hostage, it is clear that America's military was nearby. In October 2008, India deployed a warship to the region as a response to growing piracy concerns. The Indian military even went ahead and sank a Somali ship in November 2008, apparently the Somali ship refused to be boarded for investigation and opened fire instead. According to recent news reports, the Gulf of Aden is "heavily patrolled by naval warships from countries including China, the United States, France and India." The international presence in the Gulf of Aden is very large. As over 300 other individuals remain kidnapped in the region, it is understandable why many of the countries whose citizens and businesses are directly affected would take steps to limit further pirate attacks.
WHAT ABOUT THE AFRICAN HOSTAGES?
But, what about the Africans who have been taken hostage by the pirates? Or, those at the mercy of the pirates? Who will protect them? Nigeria's ThisDay newspaper revealed that Somali pirates are actually using a seized Nigerian ship to carry out their activities. The MV Yenagoa Ocean was seized over 18 months ago while returning from Singapore.
"The fate of the eight-man crew on board the ship when it was seized by the pirates was not known."Assuming that crew consisted of mainly Nigerians, what has the Nigerian government done to find them and have them returned to their families? The newspaper indicates that Yar'Adua
"set up a security committee headed by national security adviser, Major General Sarki Mukhtar (rtd) to co-ordinate the release of the ship. The committee is believed to have contemplated seeking foreign assistance on how to secure the release of the ship."It is wonderful to know that a team has been assigned the responsibility of retrieving the ship, which is owned by the relative of a powerful current Minister. And, one can only pray that their mandate includes an effort to free the crew. However, considering the lack of traction on many significant issues such as the current Halliburton scandal, the asinine power situation, and the undeniable fact that 18 months after the ship was overpowered and its crew disappeared, there is yet to be any positive information, this update gives little confidence that this administration will retrieve the crew. There is also the unfortunate reality that piracy in Nigerian waters is also on the rise. And, if Nigerian crew members are going missing in the Gulf of Aden, then imagine the Kenyans and countless other African seafarers who have had some unfortunate run in or another with Somali pirates. Did they make it home safe and sound? Being that Africans cannot bring home the millions in ransom dollars the pirates are looking for, God only knows what the fate of an African hostage is.
In the case of the Nigerian crew, sadly, the ship, not the crew, just might actually make it back to Nigeria. That possibility reflects the unfortunate reality of the state of Africa - a mighty continent bursting at the brim with potential, but controlled by individuals and groups that seem to not have the interest of their constituents at heart.
WILL AFRICA WEIGH IN ON THIS PROBLEM?
As noted above, the whole world is talking about piracy and Africa, but Africa's voice, for some reason, is quiet. What do Africans, from all over the continent think about this situation and what views do they have on possible remedies? One hopes that the silence from African leaders is because they are too busy dealing with more pressing domestic issues, but nothing is more pressing that preserving the sovereignty and integrity of the continent. Whoever controls access to and through Africa will control access to and through what is considered the last virgin bastion of future economic growth. So, whether it be from pirates or foreign military ships in African waters, Africans must have the first and last say as to what happens within its sphere. Africa cannot allow the terms of the debate to be determined without its input as far too often has been the case with everything involving the continent and her people. No long term solution can be successfully achieved without the participation of Africans and Africa must not forget that a solution is primarily in the interest of the continent and thus, demands her constructive input. Unfortunately, Africa's leaders are content to hold reign over the vast resources in their countries paying little attention to the strategic necessities of their people's future. And even more unfortunate is that as this happens, as Africans pay little to no part in the debates and issues involving their own continent, it is their lives that will ultimately be at stake.
Related Articles of Interest:
- Why I Blog About Africa
- Who Will Fight For Nigeria? (AFRICOM PT. 1)
- AFRICOM... The Dotted Line Has Been Signed
- Nigeria, Mugabe & The ICC
- 'Soiled Hands' & Strategy":What Nigeria Says About Democracy