Monday, 3 February 2014

Jewel Ahiable and the MV Iceberg 1 Crew

I won't be too surprised if you are a Ghanaian and haven't heard the name Jewel Ahiable or heard his story. Frankly I would never have heard of him if he wasn't my girlfriend's cousin. A quick Google search will have you wondering how and why you haven't heard his story. This is a real life Captain Phillips story.

On March 29, 2010, the Ship MV Iceberg 1 was captured by Somalian Pirates who demanded a $10 million ransom to release the ship and its crew. At the time of the attack, the Panamanian-flagged ship had a crew of 24, made up of 8 Yemenis, 6 Indians, 4 Ghanaians (Jewel Ahiable, Edward Kofi Asare, Francis Koomson Senior and Prince Agbo.), 2 Sudanese, 2 Pakistani and 1 Filipino. The ship owners refused to pay the ransom and this beganthe longest held hijacked ship in modern history.

From March 29, 2010 to December 23, 2012 the crew members were held and tortured. They were permitted to make occasional desperate phone calls to the outside world to describe their plight – a way for pirates to apply pressure in the negotiating process – but for two years and nine months of captivity, nobody answered their pleas for help.

The families of the Ghanaian captives tried to petition the Ghanaian government at the time to help bring the captives home but they were constantly frustrated by the 'Powers that be' and by bureaucracy. According to the government they didn't want any public attention around the incident so that the pirates didn't get too excited.

I've attached a soundcloud audio of Jewel Ahaible and the other crew members narrating their ordeal on Citi FM after their rescued.

audio edited by Esianyo Kumodzi 

At the time of the rescue Ghanaians were still reeling from the death of President Atta Mills and the tension around the December 7th election was still fresh. The news of their rescue would definitely have lifted the mood of the country. I've seen on TV the kind of reaction that followed the rescue of people in perilous situation. The Chilean Miners' rescue and the Hiatian Man found 11 days after the Earthquake being examples.

Since the Government did not contribute anything whatsoever to their rescue and return, the least they could have done was welcome them and created some sort of fan-fair about their rescue but no. They arrived quietly with just Citi FM and their families to meet them. In fact, their rescue was celebrated by Somalians and not Ghanaians. They were hosted by the Somalian President and rode in luxury cars on the streets of Somalia with people cheering them everywhere.

After 3 years of being tortured they received no compensation or the pay due them during the period. The company that owned the ship owed them a few months pay before the ship set off and that hasn't been paid yet. The 4 Ghanaian have tried on many occasion to get the money due them. They've tried to petition the government and relevant bodies but to no avail.