2014-10-24
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Reformed Somali pirates begin new lives


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hundreds of young Somalis who drifted into crime as seafaring hijackers are starting legitimate careers, thanks to governmental rehabilitation programmes.

The Himan and Heeb regional administration in central Somalia announced that it has reformed more than 200 former pirates in its custody.

"The young people we have here are ready to begin new lives," Himan and Heeb Interior Affairs Secretary Omar Gureye told Sabahi. "Some of them want to be fishermen, while the majority hope to join the armed forces. Therefore, we are waiting to transfer them to the federal government."

The men underwent a three-month rehabilitation training programme and will go through formal military training to become professionalised soldiers once they are transferred to the federal government.

An international crack-down on piracy has helped deter young Somalis from engaging in such crime, said Mohamed Ahmed, a Bosaso-based piracy expert.

"In the last few years, an increasing number of youth are quitting piracy and starting new lives different from piracy," Ahmed told Sabahi.

"That [decrease] was caused by the long term operation [of the international community] that succeeded in weakening piracy after a long period. Other reasons were the shunning of the pirates by the public, awareness campaigns by the various administrations and amnesty extended to former pirates," he said. "But for these efforts to be successful, former pirates have to be supported by the people."

Deterrence from piracy is insufficient, however, and the Somali government is looking for international support to give pirates viable economic alternatives.

"We will consult with the international community on allocating salaries for them, opening schools for them to learn and be rehabilitated, creating jobs for them and starting social services in the districts where pirates live because we cannot do this by ourselves," Minister of Natural Resources Abdirizaq Omar Mohamed told Sabahi.

Embarking on new careers

Abdulmalik Abdishakur, 26, is a former pirate. Married with two children, he now owns a food shop in Mogadishu that his relatives opened for him so he could put piracy behind him.

"I was a pirate for six years," Abdishakur told Sabahi. "I was initially forced to go into this line of work because of unemployment and a lack of government social services. However, I have truly regretted it because it brought me nothing but trouble, until I quit at the end of last year."

"I am now crippled by a knee injury after we were fired on by the coast guard. Many of my former friends and gang members died, while many others were critically injured, which forced me to make the decision to quit this work," he said.

Abdullahi Jama, a 37-year-old father of ten with two wives in the Adado district of Galgadud region, is preparing to become a soldier after giving up piracy.

"I am here with hundreds of my friends who used to be pirates. We have received training to join the army, and that is a new life that we will begin," Jama told Sabahi.

"We will start over with the new government, as we are once again hopeful, but we need the government to accept us as soldiers and allocate salaries for us," he said.

Ali Tohow, 31, said he gave up a career in fishing to become a pirate because he thought it would be more lucrative. But he quit piracy when his wife threatened to divorce him.

"I am now ready to re-start my fishing lifestyle, but I do not have fishing equipment to start this new work," he said.

Piracy has had a huge impact on local economies, causing inflation that cripples small businesses in coastal communities throughout Somalia, said Ahmedwali Ibrahim, a resident of Jariiban district in the Mudug region.

Reforming pirates by giving them job opportunities will help revive those small businesses, he said.

"I used to have a small shop here that sold household goods and sweets, but I had to close it when the pirates caused inflation that impacted everything and we could not keep up with it," Ibrahim told Sabahi. "But now there is no piracy here and inflation has ended, so I re-opened my shop. My customers are former pirates who have started new lives."





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