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The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World (Anglais) Broché – 21 août 2012

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Where the White Man Runs Away

It was my first trip to Africa.

I arrived in Somalia in the frayed seat of a 1970s Soviet Antonov propeller plane, heading into the internationally unrecognized region of Puntland on a solo quest to meet some present-day pirates. The 737s of Dubai, with their meal services and functioning seatbelts, were a distant memory; the plane I was in was not even allowed to land in Dubai, and the same probably went for the unkempt, ill-tempered Ukrainian pilot.

To the ancient Egyptians, Punt had been a land of munifi cent treasures and bountiful wealth; in present times, it was a land of peo­ple who robbed wealth from the rest of the world. Modern Puntland, a self-governing region in northeastern Somalia, may or may not be the successor to the Punt of ancient times, but I was soon to discover that it contained none of the gold and ebony that dazzled the Egyp­tians—save perhaps for the colours of the sand and the skin of the nomadic goat and camel herders who had inhabited it for centuries.

The cabin absorbed the heat of the midday African sun like a Dutch oven, thickening the air until it was unbearable to breathe. Sweat poured freely off my skin and soaked into the torn cloth of my seat cover. Male passengers fanned themselves with the Russian-language aircraft safety cards; the women fanned their children. The high whine of the Antonov’s propellers changed pitch as it accelerated along the Djibouti runway, building towards a droning cres cendo that I had not heard outside of decades-old movies.

The stories I had heard of these planes did nothing to put me at ease: a vodka-soaked technician banging on exposed engine parts with a wrench; a few months prior, a plant-nosed landing at Bossaso airstrip after a front landing strut had refused to extend. Later, in Bossaso, I saw the grounded craft, abandoned where it had crashed, a few lackadaisical guards posted nearby to prevent people from stripping the valuable metal.

This fl ight was like a forgotten relic of the Cold War, a physical testament to long-defunct Somali-Soviet geopolitical ties that had disintegrated with the countries themselves; its Ukrainian crew, indentured servants condemned forever to ferry passengers along this neglected route.

Over the comm system, the Somali steward offered a prayer in triplicate: Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, as the plane gained speed. The whine heightened to a mosquito-like buzz and we left the ground behind, setting an eastward course for Somalia, roughly shadowing the Gulf of Aden coastline.

As I approached my thirty-fifth weary hour of travel, my desire to socialize with fellow passengers had diminished, but on purely self-serving grounds I forced myself to chat eagerly with anyone throw­ing a curious glance in my direction. I had never met my Somali host, Mohamad Farole, and any friend I made on the plane was a potential roof over my head if my ride didn’t show. Remaining alone at the landing strip was not an option; news travels around Somalia as fast as the ubiquitous cellphone towers are able to transmit it, and a lone white man bumming around the airstrip would be public knowledge sooner than I cared to contemplate.

When he learned that I was travelling to Garowe, Puntland’s capital city, the bearded man sitting next to me launched into the unfortunate tale of the last foreigner he knew to make a similar voyage: a few months previous, a Korean man claiming to be a Muslim had turned up in the capital, alone and unannounced. Not speaking a word of Somali, he nonetheless succeeded in fi nding a residence and beginning a life in his unusual choice of adoptive homeland.
He lasted almost two weeks. On his twelfth day in Puntland, a group of rifle-toting gunmen accosted the man in broad daylight as he strolled unarmed through the streets. Rather than let himself be taken hostage, the Korean made a fight of it, managing to struggle free and run. He made it several metres before one of his bemused would-be captors casually shot him in the leg. The shot set off a hue and cry, and in the ensuing clamour the gunmen dispersed and someone helped the man reach a medical clinic. I later learned from another source that he was a fugitive, on the run from the Korean authorities. His thought process, I could only assume, was that Somalia was the last place on earth that his government would look for him. He was probably right.

Just a few months earlier, I had been a recent university graduate, killing the days writing tedious reports for a market research fi rm in Chicago, and trying to break into journalism with the occasional cold pitch to an unresponsive editor. I had no interest in journalism school, which I thought of as a waste of two of the best years of my life—years that I should spend in the fray, learning how to do my would-be job in places where no one else would go.
Somalia was a good candidate, jockeying with Iraq and Afghani­stan for the title of the most dangerous country in the world. The country had commanded a soft spot in my heart since my PoliSci days, when I had wistfully dreamt of bringing the astounding demo­cratic success of the tiny self-declared Republic of Somaliland (Punt­land’s western neighbour) to the world’s attention.

The headline-grabbing hijacking of the tank transport MV Faina in September 2008 presented me with a more realistic opportunity. I sent out some feelers to a few Somali news services, and within ten minutes had received an enthusiastic response from Radio Garowe, the lone news outlet in Puntland’s capital city. After a few long emails and a few short phone calls with Radio Garowe’s founder, Mohamad Farole, I decided to buy a ticket to Somalia.

It took multiple tickets, as it turned out. Getting to Somalia was an aerophobe’s nightmare—a forty-five-hour voyage that took me through Frankfurt, Dubai, Djibouti, Bossaso, and finally Galkayo. In Dubai, I joined the crowd of diaspora Somalis, most making short visits to see their families, pushing cart upon cart overfl owing with goods from the outside world. Curious eyes began to glance my way, scanning, no doubt, for signs of mental instability. I was in no posi­tion to help them make the diagnosis; by the first leg of my trip, I had already lost the ability to judge objectively whether what I was doing was sane or not. News reports of the numerous journalists kid­napped in Puntland fixated my imagination. I channelled the hours of nervous energy into studying the lone Somali language book I had been able to dig up at the public library; I scribbled answers to exer­cises into my notebook with an odd sense of urgency, as if cramming for an exam that would take place as soon as I set foot in Somalia.

The last white face disappeared at Djibouti’s dilapidated, near-deserted airport, as American F-16s performed eardrum-shattering training manoeuvres overhead. By the time the plane landed in Galkayo, I was the only non-Somali passenger on board.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“Brave and exhaustively reported. . . . Bahadur has gone deep in exploring the causes of this seaborne crime wave.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Bahadur has borne witness and seen what no other journalist has seen. He has peeked behind the curtain of the pirates of Somalia in their faraway tribal homelands . . . and lived to tell about it.” —The Boston Globe
“A fascinating narrative that opens a hitherto largely unknown world to a wider audience.” —San Francisco Chronicle
"An illuminating guide. . . . Bahadur has probably spent more time with Somali pirates than just about any other Western researcher or writer.” —The New Republic

“A first-of-its kind book. . . . Takes readers through the evolution of the pirate groups from garrulous, self-proclaimed vigilantes who claim they are protecting Somalia’s waters from illegal fishing vessels to the deadly criminal gangs they are today.” —Associated Press
“Convincing. . . . In Bahadur’s telling, the fractured, tribal governance of Somalia’s territories is almost unbelievable in its dysfunction. And the year-by-year evolution of Somalian piracy is mesmerizing. . . . Look to The Pirates of Somalia for an aggregation
of all the news stories about this phenomenon over the past four years, with the additional, intimate layer—stories of the pirates from the pirates themselves—that no one else was reckless enough to get.” —The Plain Dealer
“This vivid and intelligent study of Somali pirates uncovers the reckless men behind the nation’s most lucrative business. . . . A
balanced and fascinating portrait.” —The Sunday Times (London)
“An insightful report. . . . Revelatory journalism and astute analysisof causes and solutions that prove far more informative than any
TV footage about the contemporary piracy problem.” —Booklist
“An engaging account, full of solid analysis. . . . What’s especially impressive (aside from Bahadur’s sheer nerve in insinuating himself among these dangerous men in a lawless corner of the world) is the amassing of multiple perspectives—of pirates and policymakers— that support a rich, suspenseful account.” —Publishers Weekly

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Amazon.com: 46 commentaires
44 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Entertaining and informative 11 août 2011
Par kevinw9 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Jay Bahadur's "The Pirates of Somalia" is a incredible work of non-fiction. There are actually two stories told in this book. The first is a fascinating look into the history of what may be the most failed of "failed states" on the planet and the piracy scourge that has developed on its shores. Understanding piracy must be understood within the context of the country as a whole and Bahadur does a great job of explaining this. The inside look into pirate gangs, pirate leaders, hostages, politicians and others provides a viewpoint not available elsewhere. But the second story, and equally intriguing, is about a Canadian rookie journalist flying to Somalia on a whim, when no other reporter would do so, with a half-baked plan to embed himself with marine kidnappers for a few months - not something you hear about often.

Kudos to Bahadur for a beautifully written, well researched book. Enjoyed every page.
25 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Daring Book 11 août 2011
Par Todd Thompson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Article first published as Book Review: The Pirates of Somalia: Inside Their Hidden World by Jay Bahadur on Blogcritics.

Far from being a romanticized history, The Pirates of Somalia by Jay Bahadur is a new (July, 2011) and important book about the pirates themselves, giving readers a full-color view of their origin, their clannish culture, and their motives.

Bahadur explains through his bold interviews with financiers and respected leaders that the piracy we currently see in Somalia is a result of an evolutionary process.

Early on, in the mid 1990's, in absence of a coast guard, Somali fishermen vigilantes, determined to protect their livelihood, began seizing the assets of small commercial fishing boats, in essence levying on them a tax of sorts for the offender's intrusion into their national waters.

By the mid-2000's, as Bahadur explains, these same operations became big businesses. No longer a defensive measure alone pirating became profitable and drew attention from other sectors of Somali culture.

In the "third wave" opportunism matured, attracting among others "disaffected youth from the large inland nomad population." This group, while echoing the "worn-out mantra" of the legacy they inherited, has lost the "brooding introspection" possessed by the older fishermen vigilantes who chose the route of piracy as a means of forcing justice in absence of a government authority. It is this third wave that has extended their reach into the high seas targeting large commercial trade ships for multi-million dollar ransoms.

In the conclusion of his book, Bahadur proposes actions which the international community might take to offer a "pragmatic mitigation" of piracy, a term he uses instead of "elimination." Among them are measures of prevention, enforcement, and intelligence. It is a problem, he says, that must be solved on land as well as on the sea.

The Pirates of Somalia is a daring book which invites readers into a world that challenges both the romanticist as well as the view of the noncritical consumer of television news.

Read more: [...]
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Excellent Summary by A Brave Rookie Journalist 17 septembre 2011
Par George Bush - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Few places are more uninviting than Somalia, a lawless 'failed state' gripped by the worst drought in 60 years. Jay Bahadur, a young Canadian, quit his job writing market-research reports and flew to the center of piracy in northeastern Somalia to pursue his dream of being a journalist. Wisely he had previously arranged for a local sponsor (Mahamad Farole, son of the new president of Puntland, a Somalian state) to both provide safeguarding and introductions to local pirates - otherwise his story, at best, would have simply been one of being kidnapped and held for ransom. Bahadur further ingratiated himself to the locals by adopting some of their customs - most notably the chewing of 'khat,' a mild cocaine-like leaf grown in Africa and selling for about $20/kilo, roughly a day's supply.

Khat produces mild euphoria, and a belief that one is invincible and superhuman. Downsides include tooth decay, decreased liver function, and depression after withdrawal. The leaves' ability to create a narcotic effect is time limited - thus fresh supplies are flown in daily from Kenya and Ethiopia.

Local pirates told Bahadur that their forays started in the mid-1990s when Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean fishing trawlers began using steel-pronged drag fishing nets to wipe out their lobsters and their breeding grounds. The first piracy raids were retaliatory - capturing foreign fishing vessels, keeping the catch, and ransoming the crew. However, by 1997 the foreign fishing fleets began obtaining protection contracts with local warlords who provided armed guards and anti-aircraft guns. So the early pirates then began pursuing commercial cargo ships, identifiable by the cranes on their decks and much slower speeds (supertankers ran at about 10 mph) vs. tourist ships.

From initially spotting their prey to capture took at most 30 minutes, primarily relying on hooked rope ladders and the threat of AK-47s. Crews rarely fought back, partly because of their volatile cargoes, and also because owners did not want to escalate situations over a relatively small ransom loss. (Armed guards would cost about $40,000/trip.) Only about 20-30% of piracy attempts succeeded, thanks to most prey being too fast or taking evasive action, and foreign naval intervention. (Only about 15% of pirate attacks are stopped by foreign naval forces.) The odds of any ship being seized in the Gulf of Aden were only about 0.17% in 2008.

ailing around the Cape of Good Hope is an alternative, but would cost $3.5 million/year in extra fuel and reduce the number of trips made. Employing extra men for lookouts would help (take earlier evasive action), but owners generally don't - crews have been reduced from about 25 in the 1970s to 11-15 today. Another defense is for the crew to barricade themselves in the engine room, able to shut off the engines and remain out of the line of fire if international forces intervened.

Ransom payoffs were often parachuted onto or near the decks of the seized ships. Half went to the attackers, one-third to investors, and the rest to guards, translators, and local suppliers of food and water. Many of the pirates had previously been trained by local governments in a failed efforts to form a coast guard. They failed because of the high costs of fuel and manpower. (Per the author, the UAE is now attempting to restart these efforts and fund them on a sustained basis.) Somalian troops are of little use fighting the pirates because they are usually stationed far inland - aggressive pursuit of the pirates risks creating civil war. Islamic clerics strongly oppose piracy, and anything bought with the proceeds is labeled as 'damned.' Prisoners in Somalia are often released early, thanks to bribes and the need to make room for more serious offenders.

Somali pirate attacks occur in an area approximately two-thirds the size of the U.S., mostly in shipping lanes. There are an estimated 1,500-2,000 pirates, grouped in packs of 6 - 12. The opposing international naval coalition is comprised of 25 - 40 vessels costing $1-1.5 billion/year, vs. hijacking losses of about $90 million. The number of seized ships has meanwhile risen from 49 in 2008, to 68 in 2009, and 74 in 2010; 2011 looks like it will set a new record. Simultaneously, rewards have grown from an average $1.35 million in 2008, to $2.25 million in 2009, and $3.5 million in 2010. The record ransom was $9.5 million for a South Korean oil tanker. (Earlier this year Korean commandos retook another tanker, killing 8 pirates.) At least 64 pirates have been killed between 8/08 - 5/10 by coalition forces.

Bahadur ends with recommendations on reducing piracy - improved policing in Somalia, more prison space, and stopping outsiders from taking the area's fish and lobsters.

It's a good bet that we'll be reading more from Bahadur, continuing in his journalism career.
7 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Unique perspective on Somali piracy 13 septembre 2011
Par Joel R. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
The word "pirates" evokes images of bearded men, eye patches, parrots, and 18th century sailing vessels. Nothing could be further from the truth of the AK-47 toting pirates operating today in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Jay Bahadur offers an unprecedented perspective on the modern pirate organizations operating out of the less governed regions of Somalia. Once his patience waiting for proper introduction to a Somalia "pirate" paid off, Bahadur was able to learn from an insider the whys and hows piracy came to be.

Bahadur provides the reader with a primer on the history of piracy in the waters surrounding Somalia. While he recognizes his indebtedness to the information in Stig Jarle Hansen's "Piracy in the Greater Gulf of Aden", Bahadur provides a much richer (and readable) version of events. With that being said, Bahadur does not objectively examine the Somalia pirate's motivation for piracy. Universally, the pirates claim illegal fishing as the reason for turning to piracy. However, the first recorded attacks in 1991 were against cargo ships sailing into Mogadishu - it's hard to support the statement that illegal fishing was the initial reason, but the first targets were commercial cargo vessels whose cargo was stolen and resold on the black market. Interestingly, he identifies that the "illegal fishing" excuse is a myth in the epilogue of the book - not in the section entitled "myths".

The author does an outstanding job of covering the history of Somali and International efforts to establish a coast guard to combat piracy in the waters. Bahadur discusses the concepts of licensing fishing vessels (and security forces), and how these efforts eventually failed. Subsequently, this left a sizable number of unemployed men trained in boat operations and paramilitary training - the perfect recruiting pool for piracy operations.

For readers interested in the economics of the operations, the author looks at how the operations are funded. In essence, there are three groups of people. The venture capitalists provide the boat, weapons, and supplies for the operation. The second group, the assault team, is responsible for securing the victim. The third group are the holders, who guard the ship after the crew has been subdued. Bahadur offers the pirates perspective on how each of these groups function, and how the shares are distributed once the ransom has been paid.

Just as interesting, Bahadur runs the numbers from the perspectives from the victim's and insurer's perspective. In debunking some of the myths surrounding Somali piracy, the numbers show that it's really not as dangerous as the media makes it out to be.

Having spent six months on the business end of supporting combat operations against the pirates, I agree with his predictions on the growth of piracy in the region. However, I do not agree two of his recommendations. Politically, it is more palatable for voters to fund combat operations against pirates than it is to pay employees in another nation. The other three recommendations are outstanding and do deserve more consideration.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the book. I highly recommend this book for readers looking to discover more about Somali piracy.
17 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Great writing with an outstanding subject matter 21 août 2011
Par Ron Walsh - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
I saw the author plugging the book on the Daily Show, and having studied the pirates and their operations while serving as an Intelligence Specialist in the Marine Corps, I can tell you that this is a great book that gives insight to the how's and why's the pirates do what they do.
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