Mohamed Farole, the president of Puntland, insisted that I visit the prison to prove that his tough stand on maritime kidnappers was not just talk. Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, and Puntland is one of its seven autonomous regions. Minutes after entering the prison, I met 51-year-old Farah Hirsi Kulan, or “Boyah.”Halfway into an eight-year sentence for piracy, Kulan lounged outside a packed cell block with another famous bandit, Omar Bagaley. A newly arrested 13-year-old, Saynab, sat wedged between Bagaley’s knees on a concrete slab.
Saynab, the 13-year-old would-be pirate, clearly admired his elders in the yard. His implausible story was that he set sail with the pirates to learn how to fish.It was Friday, and he was being visited in jail by his 32- year-old mother and two-year-old brother. His mother blamed herself for Saynab’s predicament.“I only started looking for him 22 days after he disappeared,” she said. “I thought he just sailed away.”
Shipping companies ballpark the impact of pirates on their trillion-dollar shipping business at $7 billion to $12 billion per year, according to Ocean Beyond Piracy figures presented at a Dubai antipiracy conference in April.
This is Somalia.