Pirates, Coastguard and Warships at the Horn of Africa

The brief communique for the event only hinted at the brilliant confluence of thought to come. The Freedom Shop Collective were hosting the first of their three discussions for November:

Ten Somali were recently put on trial for ‘piracy’ in Germany. Why did Europe’s richest nation try people from one of the poorest countries? Why are almost 1000 Somali people being tried in different countries around the world? What is happening in the Indian Ocean? Who are the real pirates? Observations of the trial in Germany and an overview of the campaigns around the Horn of Africa.

The evening was bought to life by Anne Marie and Marcus first-hand observations of a farcical trial in Hamburg, where the might of Germany and its plodding jurisprudence was set the challenge of annihilating a handful of Somali pirates.

The underlying theme of the evening comes as a paraphrasing of what Slavoj Zizek said in a public discussion with Assange: “let’s not be glib. You are a terrorist, technically, yes this is true. But, and this is my point: if you are a terrorist, then my god, what are they?!”

Lets unpack that: the Somali men and youths sentenced to between seven and two years in jail are pirates. The beginning of this modern piracy of the Horn of Africa started as a way to claim some payment from international fishing ships plundering the region. But the pirates have become more sophisticated and have moved outside of the zone that once would have been called Somalia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (SEEZ). Apparently a country loses this zone when they no longer have a functioning government. And into these empty oceans came the plunderers of marine life and the dumpers of chemicals and waste too costly to dump elsewhere. There are documented cases of this reported in the UN. What are these companies compared to the Somali pirates? What are they compared to the Somalis being tried under terrorism laws right now in Italy? We’re going to need a bigger word, a more villainous noun.

The evening was full of brilliant contrasts. Compare the Somali man who was blackmailed by a debt to a petty merchant and who ended up in Hamburg with the might of the Nato fleets patrolling the waters off the cape. Compare the relatively functioning democratic territory of Somaliland, unrecognised in international law, with the embattled state of Somalia, barely controlling Mogadishu but ceaselessly favoured by the international community. Compare the Somali youths in limbo now that they have served their two years, but have no passport to get home, there are no direct flights (and no other countries to allow them on flights) and the liberal sentiments in Germany that mean no-one can be deported to a country involved in a civil war with the carefree parting of the waters as ships cruise past the Horn of Africa towards the Suez canal, parting the ocean with all the ease fantasised about by the proponents of free trade.

There are two more talks by the Freedom Shop Collective and if they are half as insightful as this first one then that will be time and koha well spent. On November 13th is a primer titled ‘What is Anarchism?’ and two Tuesdays afterwards, is a discussion on Pacificm and non-violence.


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