Awet T. Weldemichael is an Associate Professor and Queen's National Scholar in African History at Queen's University in Kingston, ON. He earned his PhD from UCLA. He is the author of Third World Colonialism and Strategies of Liberation (Cambridge University Press 2013). He most recently completed a book project on the root causes, dynamics and consequences of maritime piracy in Somalia.
For about seven years between 2005 and 2012, maritime piracy off the coast of Somalia captivated the attention of the media and the world in general. With gun slinging pirates terrorizing the western Indian Ocean waters, the romanticized image of "the pirates of the Caribbean" was no more. While no less criminal, however, Somali pirates were not as powerful, dangerous and global consequential as the media and some scholarship made them appear. Nor were they as deeply rooted in local traditions and networks or beneficial to the local communities as the world believed to the case to be. Yet, whereas some of them traced the origin of their criminal enterprise to their legitimate reaction against foreign industrial scale illegal fishers in their waters, others simply piggybacked on the grievances of those local fishermen. My research examines these dynamics from the ground in Somalia and sheds light on the root causes, dynamics and consequences of the short-lived phenomena of piracy in Somalia.