Why We Don’t Condemn Our Pirates in Somalia by Knaan

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Why We Don’t Condemn Our Pirates in Somalia
By K’Naan , URB Magazine. Posted April 14, 2009.

Can anyone ever really be for piracy? Well in Somalia, the answer is: it’s complicated.

http://www.alternet.org/story/136481/why_we_don%27t_condemn_our_pirates_in_somalia/?page=entire

knaanperformance-2251Can anyone ever really be for piracy? Outside of sea bandits, and young girls fantasizing of Johnny Depp, would anyone with an honest regard for good human conduct really say that they are in support of Sea Robbery? Well in Somalia, the answer is: it’s complicated. The news media these days has been covering piracy in the Somali coast, with such lopsided journalism that it’s lucky they’re not on a ship themselves. It’s true that the constant hijacking of vessels in the Gulf of Aden is a major threat to the vibrant trade route between Asia and Europe. It is also true that for most of the pirates operating in this vast shoreline, money is the primary objective. But according to many Somalis, the disruption of Europe’s darling of a trade route is just Karma biting a perpetrator in the butt. And if you don’t believe in Karma, maybe you believe in recent history. Here is why we Somalis find ourselves slightly shy of condemning our pirates.

Somalia has been without any form of a functioning government since 1991. And despite its failures, like many other toddler governments in Africa, sprung from the wells of post-colonial independence, bad governance and development loan sharks, the specific problem of piracy was put in motion in 1992.

After the overthrow of Siyad Barre, our charmless dictator of twenty-some odd years, two major forces of the Hawiye Clan came to power. At the time, Ali Mahdi, and General Mohamed Farah Aidid, the two leaders of the Hawiye rebels were largely considered liberators. But the unity of the two men and their respective sub-clans was very short-lived. It’s as if they were dumbstruck at the advent of ousting the dictator, or that they just forgot to discuss who will be the leader of the country once they defeated their common foe. A disagreement of who will upgrade from militia leader to Mr. President broke up their honeymoon. It’s because of this disagreement that we’ve seen one of the most devastating wars in Somalia’s history, leading to millions displaced and hundreds of thousands dead. But war is expensive and militias need food for their families, and Jaad (an amphetamine-based stimulant) to stay awake for the fighting. Therefore a good clan-based Warlord must look out for his own fighters. Aidid’s men turned to robbing aid trucks carrying food to the starving masses, and reselling it to continue their war. But Ali Mahdi had his sights set on a larger and more unexploited resource, namely: the Indian Ocean.

Already by this time, local fishermen in the coastline of Somalia have been complaining of illegal vessels coming to Somali waters and stealing all the fish. And since there was no government to report it to, and since the severity of the violence clumsily overshadowed every other problem, the fishermen went completely unheard. But it was around this same time that a more sinister, a more patronizing practice was being put in motion. A Swiss firm called Achair Parterns, and an Italian waste company called Progresso, made a deal with Ali Mahdi, that they could dump containers of waste material in Somali waters. These European companies were said to be paying Warlords about $3 a ton, where as in to properly dispose of waste in Europe costs about $1000 a ton.

In 2004, after Tsunami washed ashore several leaking containers, thousand of locals in the Puntland region of Somalia started to complain of severe and previously unreported ailments, such as abdominal bleeding, skin melting off and a lot of immediate cancer-like symptoms. Nick Nuttall, a spokesman for the United Nations Environmental Program, says that the containers had many different kinds of waste, including “Uranium, radioactive waste, lead, cadmium, mercury and chemical waste.” But this wasn’t just a passing evil from one or two groups taking advantage of our unprotected waters, the UN Convoy for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, says that the practice still continues to this day. It was months after those initial reports that local fishermen mobilized themselves, along with street militias, to go into the waters and deter the Westerners from having a free pass at completely destroying Somalia’s aquatic life. Now years later, that deterance has become less noble, and the ex-fishermen with their militias have begun to develop a taste for ransom at sea. This form of piracy is now a major contributor to the Somali economy, especially in the very region that private toxic waste companies first began to bury our nation’s death trap.

Now Somalia has upped the world’s pirate attacks by over 21 percent in one year, and while NATO and the EU are both sending forces to the Somali coast to try and slow down the attacks, Blackwater and all kinds of private security firms are intent on cashing in. But while Europeans are well in their right to protect their trade interest in the region, our pirates were the only deterrent we had from an externally imposed environmental disaster. No one can say for sure that some of the ships they are now holding for ransom were not involved in illegal activity in our waters. The truth is, if you ask any Somali if they think getting rid of the pirates only means the continuous rape of our coast by unmonitored Western vessels, and the production of a new cancerous generation, we would all fly our pirate flags high.

It is time that the world gave the Somali people some assurance that these Western illegal activities will end, if our pirates are to seize their operations. We do not want the EU and NATO serving as a shield for these nuclear waste-dumping hoodlums. It seems to me that this new modern crisis is a question of justice, but also a question of whose justice. As is apparent these days, one man’s pirate is another man’s coast guard.

K’naan is a Somali-Canadian poet, rapper and musician.

Below are links to the interviews we did with Knaan a couple of weeks before all this drama unfolded

In the first clip he talks about Somali Pirates

In the second clip he talks about the US attempts to classify Somalis here in the US as Terrorists

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrwgiprDBtA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i67euACNhmA

Raise Up Knaan is in the Building-Make Room at the Table

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Raise Up Knaan is in the Building-Make Room at the Table

by Davey D

Listen to the Breakdown FM interview w/ Knaan by clicking link below:

http://odeo.com/episodes/24382570-Knaan-is-in-the-Building-make-Room-at-the-Table

Davey DI met Somalian born rapper Knaan about 3 or 4 years ago in his current place of residence Toronto. We chopped it up back then and he assured me that it was just a matter of time before the US Hip Hop scene would open its arms to rappers from other shores. At the time that seemed far fetched because even though we all know that Hip Hop is a worldwide phenomenon, very few heads in the states can cite more than 3 or 4 artists from neighboring Canada much less from overseas. Ask folks to name artists from Africa and the conversation is all but over…

On one hand we should not be surprised. After all, Hip Hop always reflects the mindset and cultural mores of the people and places that embrace it.Hence to the degree we can hardly name off any of the Provinces in Canada it should not be a shock that we can’t name off any of her artists.

Nowadays Knaan is increasingly becoming a household word here in the states. He’s already a superstar overseas. For many he’s a breath of fresh air who reminds us just how flavorful good Hip Hop can be. His creativity and overall conversation raises the bar. His global perspectives reminds us that this is a big big world and our country is just a small part of it..

We caught up with Knaan during his visit at SXSW in Austin, Tx and chopped it up with him. We talked about his new album Troubadour which is a monster and what he was trying to get across. We talked about the challenges of knocking down doors in the US. Knaan quoted Saul Williams by agreeing with the assertion that Hip Hop has been republican in the past 10 years. Its been about money, closing its eyes to the realities outside its immediate borders and very unwilling to change.
He sees things changing for the better and that’s a good thing.

We covered a variety of topics including the recent move by Homeland security to scrutinize Somalis living here in the US as possible terrorists. We talked about the whole Somali pirates thing and discovered that what we been fed by mainstream news is a big lie. Knaan explained that the so called pirates are actually more like Coast Guards. They been patrolling the waters and stepping to foreign vessels that look at the un-centralized government in Somalia and hence feel they can do pillage the natural resources like over the top commercial fishing and illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. The Somalia pirates have been stepping to vessels for violating their water space and have taken the matter up to the UN only to have the main violators France along with the US veto any resolution..

knaanWe talked about the make up of Knaan’s album and what it was like working with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Hip Hop legend Chubb Rock. He explained that Levine was a real cool and basically came through and laid down vocals for free. He just wanted to show respect and appreciation for the music.

He talked about admiring Chubb Rock’s rhyme flow and how it was an honor to have the rapper turned school teacher to come through and lace him up.

Knaan also talked about his rhyme influences which actually come from the Rhythmic Poets of Somalia. These wordsmith have been around centuries before the first rappers in the Bronx

Finally we talked about the state of the world and how US and US Hip Hop fit into things. Knaan noted that the US is now going a period where many of its citizens are feeling vulnerable and at ease. he noted its the same type of uneasiness that many throughout the world feel on a day to day basis. Our economic hardships are routine for the majority of the people around the world and now that type of situation is on our shores and we will have to not only rise to the occasion be much more aware of what the rest of planet earth is experiencing.

Listen to the Breakdown FM Interview w/ Knaan by clicking the link below:

http://odeo.com/episodes/24382570-Knaan-is-in-the-Building-make-Room-at-the-Table

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner