by Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai

In the last two years, Somali pirates have, rightly been associated with every vice and not a single virtue. Ironically, in the 17th and 18th centuries, European pirates were honoured and knighted by their monarchs. European pirates were associated with every virtue and not a single vice, a manifest case of different strokes.

These re-incarnated souls in the bodies of the Somali pirates are now being vilified. Pirates of all nations are dare-devils, who subscribe to a do-or-die way of life. They plunder the wealth of other people until one day; they end up in jail or in the belly of the fish.

The stories about the Old Man of the sea are never complete until some tales about chivalrous pirates are told with glee. The Dutch, the English, the French, the Portuguese and the Spaniards had “crown pirates” They looted, plundered, killed and maimed, for King and Country.

The Somali pirates, who now operate in the Gulf of Aden, were perhaps the same miserable souls, who operated in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans as well as in the South China Sea. While European pirates of old used Dane-guns, the re-incarnated Somali pirates use AK-47 to intimidate and rob or demand dollar ransom.

Somali corsairs should be kept at Certosa Di Pavia for years for them to imbibe some virtues and learn what creative intellect can achieve. Every act of resistance against Somali pirates is justified. Somali is a state at the point of extinction.

Attacking national carriers is akin to violent aggression against the territorial integrity of those states the ships fly their national flags and is in violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter as well as the relevant provisions of the Conventions on the Law of the Sea.

Two weeks ago, the United States Navy collaborated with the French navy to assault Somali pirates. In one incident, an American captain demonstrated bravery and leadership by giving himself up in exchange for his crew. He has been celebrated in the media, with an epic tang.

However, the dramatic rescue of the captain, in a bloody shoot-out could lead to hasty actions by the pirates in future. They have sharpened their rhetoric after capturing the Sea Horse, the Irene, the Pompeii and the other formidably named merchant marines.

The incipient spirit of piratical adventure must be apprehended. The Somali government must do more to tackle its failure to halt the pirates. Its international legal personality has been diminished by its inability to deal with its terrorists-at-sea.

The Maritime business has been affected by the activities of the Somali pirates. Marine insurance premium will increase and this can throw international trade into disarray. If the cost of marine insurance rises, freight charges could go up. All these will be passed on to the consumer, who has already tightened his belt to the last hole and is now choking.

The Dutch international lawyer and publicist, Hugo Grotius, in his book, “Mare Liberum” wrote that the Sea is open to all nations. Hugo Grotius and Alberico Gentili, a famous international lawyer, condemned PIRACY JURE GENTIUM.

The former Portuguese East Africa or Mozambique was visited by Vasco da Gama in 1498 and he found that Arabs have been there since the 10th century, mainly for the purpose of piracy, capturing natives and selling them into slavery through piratical acts and gun-boat action.

The Portuguese replaced the Arabs in piratical actions and extended their trading in African slaves to Angola around 1575. The Dutch, who were great pirates and sea-farers tried to capture Angola between 1640 and 1648, but were beaten back by the Portuguese.

All these anti-African actions are the KARMA Europeans are now paying for. Only atonement and reparations will ease their decline.

All legal systems have declared that pirates are enemies of mankind. They still are and will remain so. According to Hall, an international lawyer and publicist, even attempted piracy is piracy jure gentium.

Pirates are motivated by hedonism, farce and a stoical acceptance of dying in the deep. This stoical disposition is well described by Epictetus (ca 60-110), an exponent of stoicism.

In every indictment against pirates, their hedonistic attitude easily leads to their convictions. In a celebrated case, a British frigate, which was in the South China Sea intercepted some pirates, who were about to rob a merchant ship.

When they were arraigned for trial, they argued very vehemently that they had not robbed any ship. The prosecution put it vehemently and forcefully to them that according to Hall, an attempted piracy is piracy jure gentium.Canadians was wrong in not prosecuting the pirates their ship apprehended after a seven-hour hot pursuit. Any state that apprehends a pirate can prosecute him or her.

In Hong Kong, British Admiralty laws were used to try pirates before the former British colony, taken through piratical occupancy, reverted to its rightful owners, the Peoples Republic of China.

The British Government may wish to equip the FLEET AIR ARM to conduct reconnaissance in Somalia. It has a good record in this field.

Piracy stands condemned. All those who had profited or now profit from piracy should too. My fear is that piracy may lead to war among nations, if not checked now.

I had expected CNN and the BBC to run a commentary on “Piracy in the Days of Yore”. Actually, they should narrate the activities of the Buccaneers and the Huegonauts.

Professor of History, Egerton of Oxford University did some work in the field of African history but I remember him more for his lack of knowledge of African culture and civilization. The reaction against Egertons’ limitations is associated with Basil Davidson, who cared to look at the evidence.

Egerton blended chivalresque and sentimental themes with history. He engaged in intense and subtle denigration of Africans through oblique narrations, a legacy which has lasted into the 21st century.

He emerged in those days from obscurity to literary glory, with his fables about Africa, the Dark Continent. His works bear the indelible stamp of hyperbole. He did not condemn the piracy of European punitive expeditionists to the African Continent.

I love History, because a deep sense of history provides the empirical evidence and the historical facts which confirm that “Nothing is new under the sun”. History records man’s inhumanity to man, the atrocities of colonial rule, imperialism and other indubitable wrongs in historical times including piracy jure gentium. History tells us about apartheid in South Africa, racial discrimination in Euro-American Christian states, the slaughter during wars, and piracy. etc

Presidents, Governors, politicians in all nations, who steal the people’s wealth have no locus standi, in condemning pirates because they are worse than pirates

International action against all thieving politicians and marauding pirates should be unrelenting, total and punitive. The Somali Government or what is left of it, is directly, internationally responsible for the foolery of Somali pirates.

On April 18, NATO forces challenged Somali pirates, in the Gulf of Aden, an indication that serious concern by this military organization would lead to devastating military operations and military intelligence actions in Somalia.

I wonder how governments that have clamped innocent people into long-term detention without trial, approved of water-boarding, beatings and goading of suspects will find a place in their conscience to be vociferous about damnable pirate activities. Evil is evil.

No-one should promote hypocrisy because such behaviour leads to loss of respect for “civilized Christian states”. Some have erotized Arab culture that condones the marriages of eight-year old girls to very adult men, yet they loo

k the other way, when their soldiers commit the same atrocities during wars.

The US Government has just announced that torture and other acts of human sufferings which took place in Iraq and at Gitmo Bay will not be prosecuted. So, next time the US criticizes human rights violations in China, Russia or in North Korea, men of reason will say softly,” Look at who is talking”.

After that pronouncement, it has become difficult to rally condemnations against Somali pirates.

The Western states boycott of the UN Conference on Racism (Durban 11), weaken their human rights advocacy. They adopted the same attitude in not attending the 2001 Durban UN Conference, which angered many states in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Discussing piracy with venom while refusing to discuss racism is untidy.

Double standards weaken state’s position in international relations. Purists hate double standards and often cry in their souls and curse with effect.

Pirates are regarded as the enemies of mankind and wherever they are apprehended, they must be brought to justice. There should be a Division for the trial of pirates at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Piracy is an international criminal delict, triable under international law.

We should send our strategic thinking on this vexatious matter to the United Nations for appropriate action. My preliminary thoughts are that there should be a blockade of the Somali coast, the expulsion of Somalia from the United Nations, a complete ban on arms sale to Somalia and post a constant surveillance mission in Somalia.

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