In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.
Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”
At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia’s unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”
Somali waters have a high potential for fishing. As a result, the Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister has indicated that a study by his ministry had shown a large number of foreign vessels illegally fishing in Somali waters and serious pollution caused by vessels discharging toxic waste. Heavily armed foreign boats have often tried to exploit the breakdown of law and order in Somalia since the overthrow of President Mohammed Siad Barre in 1991 by fishing in the rich Somali waters, thus depriving coastal communities of resources.
Further, Somalia is one of the many Least Developed Countries that reportedly received countless shipments of illegal nuclear and toxic waste dumped along the coastline. Starting from the early 1980s and continuing into the civil war, the hazardous waste dumped along Somalia’s coast comprised uranium radioactive waste, lead, cadmium, mercury, industrial, hospital, chemical, leather treatment and other toxic waste. Most of the waste was simply dumped on the beaches in containers and disposable leaking barrels which ranged from small to big tanks without regard to the health of the local population and any environmentally devastating impacts.
Industrialised countries generate about 90 per cent of the world’s hazardous wastes. The amount of waste crossing national frontiers is increasing and is likely to continue, due to the high growth of industries in developed countries accompanied by a high increase in the production of hazardous waste. Reportedly, some European firms are known to be engaged in the business of dumping hazardous waste in Africa. The primary cause of this is cost. It has been estimated that it costs as little as $2.50 per tonne to dump hazardous waste in Africa as opposed to $250 per tonne in Europe.
From cocaine to plutonium: mafia clan accused of trafficking nuclear waste
Authorities in Italy are investigating a mafia clan accused of trafficking nuclear waste and trying to make plutonium.
The ‘Ndrangheta mafia, which gained notoriety in August for its blood feud killings of six men in Germany, is alleged to have made illegal shipments of radioactive waste to Somalia, as well as seeking the “clandestine production” of other nuclear material.
Its true there was an increase in illegal dumping of Toxic wastes on the Somali waters by European and Asia firms, because the country had no functional government for the past 17 years. As a result almost all European and Asia firms started freely dumping their toxic wastes in Somali waters without paying for the service.
As a result of this, a group of enterprising Somalis leaving at the port of Eyl , a haven for piracy, approached the Italian mafias in Rome and explained their annoyance over the dumping of toxic wastes on their waters..
The group of Somalis then requested the Italian mafias to protect their waters and start collecting revenue from vessels plying the route. The Italian Mafias accepted to help their former protectorate by stopping the irresponsible dumping of toxics wastes on one condition, which was to seize any vessel travelling on the Somali waters and demand a ransom. Hence the beginning of a flourishing piracy business at the port of Eyl where NATO forces even fear to go
The Italian mafia is an old hand at illegal toxic-waste dumping, drug smuggling and kidnapping, but prosecutors now say it’s moved into sinister new lines of work providing services to foreign terrorists including Al Qaeda, and trafficking nuclear material. Francesco Basentini, head of anti-mafia police in Potenza, says his investigators have evidence that the Sicilian Cosa Nostra and Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta have been dealing in radioactive nuclear waste, some imported from elsewhere in Europe and the United States. And, he says, they’ve also been dabbling in the
“clandestine production of plutonium.”
While Basentini won’t reveal the mob’s customers for the nuclear materials, Nicola Gratteri, an anti-mafia prosecutor in Calabria, confirms that Italian mafiosi are increasingly working with foreign terrorists, and investigators have fingered the Naples Camorra mob as a conduit for fake documents and arms for Al Qaeda. Gratteri sees a perverse logic behind the mafia’s cooperation with terrorists: to make Italy a valued part of their infrastructure rather a target of their attacks.
Magistrate Francesco Basentini in the city of Potenza, in southern Italy, began the investigation after a confession of an ‘Ndrangheta “turncoat,” detailing his role in the alleged waste-dumping. Basentini said that two of the Calabrian clan’s members are being investigated, along with eight former employees of the state energy research agency Enea.
The eight Enea managers are suspected of paying the mobsters to get rid of 600 drums of toxic and radioactive waste from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US, with Somalia as the destination lined up by the traffickers.
These activities took place in the 1980s and 1990s.
Maurizio Dematteis with the Italian environmental umbrella Ligambiente 2001 said there were already more than 600,000 tonnes of radioactive waste on the floor of the Atlantic ocean along the coast of the western Sahara.
He also said there were three enormous illegal dumps – among the largest in the world – in Somalia, where workers handle the radioactive waste without any kind of safeguard or protective gear – not even gloves.
The workers do not know what they are handling, and if one of them dies, the family is persuaded to keep quiet with a small bit of cash, the activist added.