Piracy REPORT:Piracy
Feature
Interview With Abdulkadir Mohamed Afweyne
Pirate Turned Mediator Says Piracy Will Not Be Solved Through Force
By MOHAMED ODOWA 04/02/2012
Somalia Report interviewed high-profile pirate turned mediator, Abdulkadir Mohamed Afweyne. He spoke of his concern about EU NAVFOR's controversial decision to extend their mandate, and his belief that the solution to Somali piracy requires discussion, not force. Afweyne is the son of Mohamed Abdi Hassan Afweyne, one of the founding figures of modern day Somali piracy.

Thank you for contacting Somalia Report for an interview. What is is that you wish to discuss?

I wanted to provide a few details on pirate activity in the region. The EU NAVFOR decision to extend their mandate to target pirate bases on shore is concerning, and this decision must be cancelled or stopped, otherwise it means that things may get worse. It is an awful decision; we have already been victimized by illegal fishing, which encouraged Somalis to attack foreign ships in order to defend our right and country.

What kinds of rights are you talking about? Pirates have attacked ships thousands of miles off the coast of Somalia. These are clearly not involved in illegal fishing in Somalia's waters.

There are a number of different pirate groups operating. There are more than 1500 pirates that operate around the areas of Eel-Janaale, Hobyo and Harardheere. We have recently decided to reduce attacks on ships that are traveling far off the coast of Somalia. Before our involvement in piracy, we were fishermen in Harardheere and Hobyo. Our boats were destroyed by ships which were fishing illegally in our sea, and piracy was our response. We believe that there is a solution to piracy. To prevent our operations against commercial ships, we need to ensure that we are free to fish in our sea, without intimidation from international counter-piracy forces or foreign illegal fishing vessels. I trust that piracy can be solved through negotiations and not by force.

Do you think you can negotiate with the European Union counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia to stop piracy in the region?

Yes of course. We would like this and would consider it, but there are some people against the idea. Those people tend to be clan elders and diaspora groups who are not willing to address the root causes of piracy. As you may know, I’m one of the high level officials for the pirates in Mudug region, where the majority of pirates are based. I believe that we can facilitate efforts to stop pirate activity, if the world is interested in that. If they ignore our advice, then they will never stop the attacks of the pirates in the region. We are now ready to sit around a table, and we will stop piracy in the region as soon as the international actors start talking to us. We are adamant that there will be no resolution through force.

How many ships and crews are being held in the areas in which you operate? How do you treat the hostages?

There are at least four ships and about 60 hostages in the Harardheere area. Negotiations are ongoing, and I will not comment further on that side of things. We treat hostages well by offering them food and free access to bathrooms. I want to remind you that there are other ships and crew who are being held in the areas of Garacad. We operate in Hobyo, Eel-Janaale and Harardheere.

Do you have any information about the US journalist (Michael Scott Moore) who was kidnapped from Galkayo by pirates?

Yes. The guys who are holding this journalist are from Galkayo. They are from the Sa’ad clan, a sub-clan of Hawiye. They are in the bush areas near Hobyo with the journalist, and they change location frequently. We advised them to treat the journalist well. His health is good and negotiations are ongoing.

How many days do you think the negotiations will go on for?

I don’t know. There are foreign security companies that are involved in the talks. US troops must not use force to release him, or else the pirates will kill him. We are saying this because of the US rescue of the two DDG workers - US special forces killed nine of our friends in the overnight operation.

What kinds of relationship do the pirates have with al-Shabaab?

It is hard for me to give you more details on this question because it seems to be sensitive but I can tell you that our relationship with al-Shabaab is an economic one. They receive a tax from the ships and crews we hijack. We do this when we operate out of al-Shabaab controlled areas.

How and where do you spend the ransom money you take from the hijacked ships and crew?

I do believe that money is ultimately meant to be spent and enjoyed, but I will not give any more details than that. Sorry!

Some of your colleagues have faced criminal charges for piracy, and have been sentenced outside the country. What is your view on that?

This is very bad, and offers another example of violations against us. It could have been prevented if Somalia had a stronger government.