Why do hundreds of poor young men who don’t even know how to swim take to the sea in flimsy boats to attack huge freighters and tankers who ply the Indian Ocean/Gulf of Aden route from East to West? The answer is simple but complicated. Poverty and political collapse in Somalia is the obvious answer but Eichstaedt, a seasoned reporter of African affairs, adds layers of complexity. These include illegal fishing that has virtually destroyed a once vital Somali fishery, toxic waste dumping on an undefended coast, arms smuggling, Islamic radicalism, big power manipulation and eager middle men who are the real beneficiaries of the increasing pirate bounty.
Eichstaedt names the clans that are thriving on the pirate industry and details the complicity of the ‘government’ of the Puntland enclave in Northern Somalia, not just as a pirate haven but as a passageway for illegal arms. The book describes the increasing violence – mostly shot, drowned or dehydrated young pirates – as the excluded look for a way to participate in the global economy.
A fascinating study of a bizarre world.