Youth are a largely curious and impressionable lot who are prone towards the more dramatic and popular occupations and lifestyles. Many young men in Somalia would be very happy to be called a pirate, a Mujaheed or a militiaman. These titles portray power, influence and most importantly spread fear. He may find it difficult to tell you what exactly he seeks to achieve through his heartfelt struggles and initiatives. These social groups constantly draw their strength from an endless supply of youthful recruits. Within Somalia’s poverty and battle ridden boundaries, a generation of youth who only understand the language of violence have emerged to claim these seemingly coveted and powerful roles in society.
Somalia Report interviewed Ibrahim Farah Osman, 26, who was once a pirate and is now reformed. He lives in Kakuma refugee camp, in Northern Kenya.
Thank you Ibrahim for your time. Could you briefly tell us about your experience as a pirate?
Life was completely different. I was a pirate for a short time between 2009 and 2010. I neglected myself and my family at large. I behaved irresponsibly and I admit it was not good. As a pirate, I was constantly exposed to dangers which I narrowly escaped. I once survived imminent death when we were attacked and a colleague of mine was shot dead. It happened so fast and when we least expected an attack. In summary, it was a dog’s life and I dislike who and what I was then.
When did you join pirates and how?
I joined a pirate gang in November 2009 while in Mogadishu. I later quit in February in 2010. Many factors contributed to my joining piracy. I was an unemployed youth living in the city then. You can imagine the kind of hardships when bankruptcy strikes you severely. I had no option so I joined them. Another friend of mine who was among the pirates, but is currently in jail, encouraged me to join them due to the high income despite the dangers involved.
Where did you operate during your stint as a pirate?
During my time we worked in almost every part of Somalia’s waters though some parts remained uncharted. We moved some times to the Gulf of Aden, we never cared about the likely dangers we would encounter. Piracy is a dirty game. Try and imagine a scenario where someone sells his own life for money.
How much were you and your seniors paid?
In my case, I was a minor member of the gang. I was part of the guards who patrol the waters and keep an eye out for incoming danger in the form of international navies or possible rescue operations for hijacked ships and hostages. During my brief stint, I was paid a total of $5000 once. For this amount, I was exposed to countless dangers and lived in a constant state of fear and stress.
It is a well paying job if all you seek is money, although it’s an illegal business. If you survive you may become the richest person in Africa. The shares that are paid out according to an individual’s position are unbelievably high. Within weeks, you may make hundreds or even thousands of US dollars. It is impossible to understand how it quickly runs out on you.
You are paid according to your duration in service and the amount available for sharing. Pirates have senior managers who are rarely in the picture but handle the negotiations for ransom. They are to be paid too and get the lion’s share.
There is a committee in charge of our operation’s expenditure and they are the ones who paid our salaries.
Sometimes there is a harvest of large amounts of money where does that money go?
I was not a senior member of the gang and cannot tell how each shilling was spent. Most of it, I know is spent on maintenance and operations like fixing speed boats and purchasing equipment to improve our operations. Most of the remaining amounts lined the pockets of the senior managers of the operations and leaders of gangs.
Are there any of your friends who have fallen into the hands of anti piracy groups?
There are many who have been caught and today they are being held in different parts of the world. Some in Kenya, others I am not sure, but many of my friends are victims of piracy today.
Lastly how would you advice your friends who are still dabbling in similar activities?
I wish to advice them to stop that business and opt for a legal and accepted business, for their own good.
Article republished with permission, (c) 2012 Somalia Report.com, all rights reserved.
About Somalia Report:
Somalia Report is a privately funded, non-partisan website that hires Western editors to work with Somali journalists inside the country to cover all aspects of the region: piracy, conflict, terrorism, government, local news, culture and key issues. The hour-by-hour coverage is targeted to professionals who need expertise, situational awareness and in-depth background to breaking news.
NOTE: Somali Report’s piracy-related news will soon be subscription-based in the very near future, please contact SR’s Editor, Jay Bahadur at: [email protected] or [email protected] for more information.