Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Badaadintu badah

Excerpt from the first draft MS for PIRATES (Cutting Edge Press) © Greg Cummings

Excerpt from the first draft MS for PIRATES (Cutting Edge Press) © Greg Cummings

“Badaadintu badah,” Somali for “survivors of the sea,” was carved across the wall above the heads of the scores of prisoners confined in a five-by-five metre lockup in Bosaso Prison, next to the port. Their cell had no beds, no toilets, and just one small ocean-facing window, too high to reach on another man’s shoulders. The only other exit was a solid iron door, riddled with corrosion but nevertheless impermeable. On the rare occasions it was opened, the cross-breeze provided momentary relief from the stench of excrement, rot and sweat.
Eighteen pirates had just been brought in, all captured by the Combined Task Force 150 in the Gulf of Aden. The new arrivals were greeted with high fives, hugs and the knocking of fists: a fraternity of badaadintu badah. Whatever gangs they belonged to they had one thing in common: they were all Majeerteen fisherman. They did not fight among themselves, as they had vested common interests and a great sense of clan pride. It was against their code to behave as thugs when onshore. Every one of them could recite the litany of injustices that forced them to trade in their fishing nets for weapons, and hijack whatever foreign ships they found in Somali waters.
 Maxamid Malik stood in the middle of a row of men with his back against a wall that abutted the ocean, where a light spray sometimes rained down on their heads. It was an exclusive spot. He led his own gang of pirates from a base on the Hafun Peninsula, two hundred and fifty kilometers away, on the other side of the Horn. He glared at the other prisoners with a fearsome expression, manifest by feral eyes, boney cheeks and thin grey lips. At nearly two metres tall he could scare the hell out of a ship’s crew even before he boarded. “How long can there be honour among thieves?” he asked, scratching his hennaed goatee, “when even the sea complains of starvation”
“Maxamid,” shouted one of the new arrivals, striding forward to knock fists with the lanky pirate, “we missed you in the Gulf.” It was Faraad, one of many who had set out from Hafun in a multi-gang flotilla a few days before, intent on launching a surge of attacks in the Gulf of Aden. He was short, with a stocky build and had a receding hairline.
“We were unlucky,” said Maxamid, “We sailed too close to the wind, and got nabbed near Abdul al Kuri, Who caught you?”
“American Navy,” growled Faraad, “near Aden.” 
“We were arrested by Puntland Coast Guard,” said Ibrahim, another pirate from Maxamid’s ranks who was standing next to him, “and they confiscated our skiff.” 
“What?” cried Faraad, “Those bastards never do their jobs.”
“They did not stop any other boats in the flotilla,” said Maxamid, “yet no amount of bribes could persuade them to change their minds about escorting us to Bosaso.” He paused to listen to the sound of hull and engines skimming across Bosaso port. “We were set up. And I have a pretty good idea who was behind it. As soon as I am released from here, I will rectify the situation.”
“God forbid, they will destroy our livelihoods, and we will die hungry in the desert.” 
The entire cell was suddenly silenced by a thunderous clang followed by a piercing creaking sound, as the iron door was unbolted and swung open. Then came an uproarious cheer. “What is it?” asked Faraad, who was too short to see the cause of the commotion.
“Time for khat,” snapped Maxamid.

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