Without a Big Commotion

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So what you know ’bout the pirates terrorize the ocean,
To never know a simple day without a big commotion,
It can’t be healthy just to live with a such steep emotion,
And when I try and sleep, I see coffins closing.

This is the chorus of the song I’m listening to as I read the news from around the world. The lyrics of the great Somali hip-hop artist who immigrated to Canada and is dedicated to performing songs about his hometown, Mogadishu, and the reality he grew up in and the experience of immigrating with his mother, to Canada, leaving behind a country falling into an ever more violent abyss.  I’m listening to K’Naan sing these lines:

So what you know ’bout the pirates terrorize the ocean,
To never know a simple day without a big commotion,
It can’t be healthy just to live with a such steep emotion,
And when I try and sleep, I see coffins closing.

Meanwhile the stories come down about what is happening in the Niger Delta. A conflict that goes back more than 50 years. A region with significant oil that western oil companies in cooperation with the Nigerian government, have been drilling for decades. And as long as they’ve been drilling, they’ve also promised the people of the Niger Delta that the benefits of their oil would soon come. Yet most indigenous people in the delta still have no access to basic sanitation, electricity, or medicine. The long touted benefits have never materialized for the very people who’s land they are drilling under. This combined with a systematic use of private and paramilitary forces to crush any sort of opposition or protest to the oil drilling, has helped fuel a desperation on the part of many people who have armed themselves and regularly attack oil platforms and take oil workers hostage.

Although its a region of the world that gets little love from western news outlets, the story of western workers being kidnapped and big oil companies being chased out at gunpoint does manage to make the back pages of the global section every now and then.  The tone of the so-called objective reporting typically focuses on the armed militants and their shocking actions. There’s not much that see’s the light of day about how minority groups have been neglected, abused, and oppressed for decades by big oil companies and the Nigerian government.

I’m thinking about this as I listen to K’naan.  What do you (we) know about pirates that terrorize the ocean? What do you know about Ijaw militants that occupy an oil platform and kick out Shell? It is easy to write the articles about what a crime and what a shame it is. But looking into how people live and what injustices are being committed on the other side, that’s not as easy.

A Somali pirate pleaded not-guilty to the charges against him in a Federal Court in NYC this week. I haven’t read the article yet. I’m sure plenty of people declared him insane and delusional. Me, I think he might have a case…. what does the court know about life in Somalia?