The well-known American public radio show, This American Life, recently ran a program about piracy, in which it profiled the story of Mohamad Aden, a man who by all accounts moved to Somalia from the United States at great personal expense in order to improve his war-torn country of origin, and—depending on whose account is believed—either worked to help rescue hostages captured by Somali pirates, or became active in piracy himself.
Aden currently sits in a Belgian prison, sentenced to five years for membership in a pirate organization. By all accounts, his troubles—whether by his own malfeasance, or his legal troubles—began with his befriending one of Somalia’s most successful and infamous pirates, Mohamed Abdi Hassan, who went by the nickname “Afweyne,” meaning “Big Mouth” in Somali. Ironically, the relationship between the two began as part of Aden’s attempts to cut down on piracy in the areas under his jurisdiction.
Ronald K. Noble, founder of RKN Global, agrees with the suggestion of the radio show reporter that corruption often takes hold in murky, gray areas. Aden’s positive desire to bring law and order to his corner of Somalia led him to ally himself with the worst element that he wishes to fight, and which ultimately led, according to the finding of the Belgian court, into Aden’s own corruption.
Aden’s journey back to Somalia began in the United States, where he lived with his wife and children before being picked by members of his clan to establish a government and law and order in the area of Somalia called Himan and Heeb. Aden established a police force and a court system in the area in place of the lawlessness that reigned previously, and he encountered some success, but found difficulty controlling an area near the coast where the pirates were too strong.
In order to counter piracy, Aden befriended Hassan, one of the most notorious of pirates, who helped him in creating a counter-piracy plan. He even convinced Hassan to retire from hijacking ships, and worked as a middle man to help free to British hostages who were held by Somali pirates.
Shortly thereafter, Aden was approached about working, together with Hassan, as a consultant on a Belgian documentary about piracy. When they arrived in Belgium, the offer turned out to have been the initiative of Belgian police, who took them both into custody on piracy charges. Hassan ultimately was sentenced to twenty years in prison, and Aden to five years.
RKN Global’s founder, Ronald Noble, warns of the influential nature of the company that people keep. Mohamad Aden kept company with an infamous pirate; what the nature of the influence this had on him is a dispute between Aden himself—who continues to protest his innocence and good intentions—and the Belgian courts.