SOMALIA: Departing pirates leave Haradhere merchants out of pocket

NAIROBI, 13 May 2010 (IRIN) - Merchants in Somalia's central town of Haradhere, formerly a pirate stronghold, are counting their losses after the pirates, whose presence had inflated the price of basic goods, were forced out of town by Islamist insurgents in late April.

"They used to pay twice or more than the actual prices; if something was selling for say 10,000 Somali shillings [about US$0.30], they would be charged 20,000 [$0.60] and they would pay," said Abukar Maolim, a trader in the town.

A 200-litre drum of fuel that used to cost between $280 and $290 while the pirates were in town is now selling for $190.

Maolim said the pirates' presence had caused an inflation of many goods, from khat - a mild stimulant widely chewed in Somalia - to tea and meat.

He added that the inflated prices often hurt the very poor the most.

The pirates had controlled the town for the past four years and used it as a staging ground for their activities.

Many businesses and traders who depended on their business were now suffering, he said. "There are some shops that are now really suffering and letting go of people who used to work for them."

He said there were those who would miss the pirates, "but I am sure the majority here will not".

Good business

Khadijo Ali, a shopkeeper, told IRIN that she had been selling merchandise worth 3,000,000 to 6,000,000 Somali shillings [about $100 to $200] a day when the pirates controlled things. "This week on my best day I sold merchandise worth 400,000 or $12."

She said she used to have two people help her in the shop but now she can manage alone. "I don't have enough to do, so what I am going to do with two other people?" But, she added: "I miss their business and I am not the only one."

She said many women who used to sell tea at a good profit were now back to selling it at regular prices.

"When they were here I would sell a flask of tea [six to seven cups] for 60,000 shillings [about $2] but now I sell it for 10,000 shillings," said a tea seller.

She said her family was now living on "a lot less than we did three weeks ago [when the pirates were chased out]".

Maolim, however, said the pirates damaged the town's economy: "Their spending created a false sense of boom; now look at us. Many people have to re-adjust." He said a number of businesses would most likely close.

A poem for the pirates

Many Somalis regard the pirates as bandits who have spoilt the country's name internationally and wreaked havoc on the economy.

This is how the poet Mohamed Ali Muse described his feelings towards them:

"When my country collapsed, the furious enemy went everywhere - everything was transformed till the unacceptable marched all over;

"The wounds and the agony, the killings and the hatred among us were taken to the high seas as the peace in the sea was disturbed -

Nothing embarrassing or shameful till we see what we had never thought - Pirate!!!! Pirate!!!! Pirate!!!! This is the disease that has cast a shadow over our seas and given us a bad name.

"Never Never Never... piracy has not been our heritage, neither our image nor our attitude as a community of the Horn known for their good hospitality to our guests, neighbours and visitors even in times of wars among us."


Meanwhile, the militant Al-Shabab group reportedly arrived in the town on 13 May, creating tensions between it and the in situ Hisbul-Islam group.

"Hisbul-Islam was not very happy to see these guys [Al-Shabab] here, and want them out," said a resident, who requested anonymity.

He said the two sides were meeting to resolve their differences. "There is no shooting but many people are closing their businesses just in case," he added.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Governance