23 July 2011

Piracy Trial out in the open - two speeches

Two of the speeches held at the press conference outside the Hamburg Criminal Justice Building on July 15.

Speech by Abdulahi Mohamud Qalimow

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The ongoing state of war in Somalia; the hunger, abject poverty and injustice are strong forces that over the decades have torn the country apart. Today, the recruitment of children by Warlord gangs, Klans and Pirates is part of everyday life. These groups polarise the country for their own interests and have no scruples. Somalia is a country in ruins, a country in which millions of civilians suffer under the ravages of war.

During 1991 and 1992, I built a primary school for destitute families and their children, following that I nitiated different welfare and aid projects in the agricultural sector. My organisation tried to ensure that most children attend school for up to 8 years, however after school there are no prospects for meaningful activity. Many families cannot feed themselves and their children, many are malnourished and suffer from chronic illness due to malnutrition, (on the last day of court in April this was described in detail in a report by several medical practitioners. It is the reality today, that approximately 50% of Somali children need special dietry supplements!

My organization works in central Somalia. Every year it rains less and less, and for the last three years there has been no more rain, due to intensified global warming and deforestation.

No other place in the world is starving like our region is starving. Famine, increasing conflicts over limited water, food and pasture resources leads to mass murder of people. The animals are also suffering. Hundreds of thousands of animals have already died due to water and food shortage. The cattle herds that were the basis of life in rural areas, can no longer be counted on. Drought, famine and war are very much focused on Somalia. The pressure of Somali refugees and animals on neighboring countries and border areas is is ever increasing.

More and more people are fleeing to the cities to live as internally displaced people in refugee camps or are leaving Somalia for good. It is a miserable life in Somalia and that should be commonly known, yet the world community is silent. Life in Somalia is a life without hope, it is characterised by serious human rights violations, wanton killings and by rampant corruption. All against all, is the motto today. Young people are exploited and used for other purposes. The weakest and most decent people suffer the most in today's Somalia. For them, there is no justice. I could tell you a lot more about the inhumane conditions in Somalia, but I do not want to bore you with these horror stories; the world is getting smaller by the day and these stories should be already known.

In addition there is the piracy. And by'pirate', I do not mean the ten young men appearing before the court in Hamburg, but the criminal European and non-European companies that, under the flag of Belize, fish within Somalia's 200 nautical mile coast line, and have over-fished that region. With pirates, I also mean the dubious recycling companies from Italy and other countries, who dump highly toxic chemical or radioactive waste in Somali waters – because it is cheap. These are criminal acts just like piracy. But no one sends warships to these cases of piracy. A Somali boy made the cynical comment that pirates are actually the Somali version of Greenpeace, they are collecting a fine along the coast of Somalia. And hidden within this exagerated comment, is a grain of truth.

There are a thousand reasons for the youth in Somalia to become pirates. Many paths lead to carrying kalashnikovs and becoming criminals, but only a few, very few paths to a just future. Anyone who speaks out is in danger. All this must be understood to understand why young men choose the path of piracy. Many pirates have previously worked for generations as a normal fisherman. Today you cannot feed yourself with fish, let alone feed a family. After school, if they even had the opportunity to attend school, young adults in Somalia have no prospects. Therefore, migration or piracy become all the more enticing, and the easier it becomes for the warlords and jihadis to recruit new fighters. And often it does not happen voluntarily. Forced recruitment of children in Somalia is part of everyday life. It will therefore be difficult in the Hamburg courts to make a fair decision, because these boys are not the cause of piracy, but the reaction to an unjust system.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I also wish peace and a speedy return to all the sailors and seamen, who are held hostage in Somalia.