Posted by: Lister | December 21, 2008

Somali Pirates and Illegal Dumping

Via Graeme’s Blog, I found this article by Al-Jazeera: ‘Toxic waste’ behind Somali piracy

I looked up one of the claims, and found the Times:

THE huge waves which battered northern Somalia after the tsunami in December are believed to have stirred up tonnes of nuclear and toxic waste illegally dumped in the war-racked country during the early 1990s.

Apart from killing about 300 people and destroying thousands of homes, the waves broke up rusting barrels and other containers and hazardous waste dumped along the long, remote shoreline, a spokesman for the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said.

[…] Mr Nuttall [UNEP spokesman] said that a UN assessment mission that recently returned from the lawless African country, which has had no government since 1991, reported that several Somalis in the northern areas were ill with diseases consistent with radiation sickness.

[…] An initial UN report says that many people in the areas around the northeastern towns of Hobbio and Benadir, on the Indian Ocean coast, are suffering from far higher than normal cases of respiratory infections, mouth ulcers and bleeding, abdominal haemorrhages and unusual skin infections.

[…] Toxic waste was first dumped in Somalia in the late 1980s, but accelerated sharply during the civil war which followed the 1991 overthrow of the late dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Local warlords, many of them former ministers in Siad Barre’s last government, received large payments from Swiss and Italian firms for access to their respective fiefdoms.

[…] Somali sources close to the trade say that the dumped materials included radioactive uranium, lead, cadmium, mercury and industrial, hospital, chemical and various other toxic wastes. In 1992, Unep said that European firms were involved in the trade, but because of the high level of insecurity in the country there were never any accurate assessments of the extent of the problem.

In 1997 and 1998, the Italian newspaper Famiglia Cristiana, which jointly investigated the allegations with the Italian branch of Greenpeace, published a series of articles detailing the extent of illegal dumping by a Swiss firm, Achair Partners, and an Italian waste broker, Progresso.

The Al-Jazeera article says:

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia confirmed to Al Jazeera the world body has “reliable information” that European and Asian companies are dumping toxic waste, including nuclear waste, off the Somali coastline.

“I must stress however, that no government has endorsed this act, and that private companies and individuals acting alone are responsible,” he said

The Pirates says they want the ransom money to clean up the coastline. I guess that’s a claim that can only be put to the test by giving them the money.

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  1. The Times Online writes about the poaching of fish from Somali waters:

    For hundreds of years the harbour village of Hobyo was famous for one thing: the sharks caught in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, which would be dried and shipped to Kenya.

    Generations of children followed their fathers to sea and a lucrative career in fishing. They still want to go to sea. Only now they dream of being pirates.

    […] With no central government since 1991 and nothing but anarchy on land, there was no coastguard or navy to protect Somali waters from foreign trawlers that arrived in search of rich pickings. Fleets from countries such as South Korea took advantage of the chaos, poaching tuna with impunity.


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