Kenya gets mandate to help in piracy fight

Source: TheEast African, Monday May 27, 2024

European Union Ambassador Henriette Geiger addresses the press at the end of bilateral training between European Naval Force, Kenya Navy and the Kenya Coast Guard Service personnel on May 23, 2024. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG

The United States and the European Union (EU) have intensified the fight against increasing militant groups in the high seas, with Kenya picked as the second country, after Seychelles, to accept and prosecute suspects of maritime crimes.

Nations with top economies have raised concern over disruption of maritime trade in the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthis and resurgence of piracy in Somalia saying the illegal groups ought to be eliminated.

European Union Naval Force (EU Navfor) has confirmed that Kenya will assist Seychelles in handling maritime crimes suspects due to the increasing maritime cases reported

EU Ambassador to Kenya Henriette Geiger said maritime security is a concern as it has led to disruption of trade and EU will work with different governments to suppress insecurity in the waters.

Speaking in Mombasa during the closure of marine training between Kenya and EU Nation forces, Ms Geiger said EU Navfor will extend its presence in different areas where piracy, narcotics and human trafficking and other crimes are reported.

“EU Navfor Somalia managed to suppress piracy in its previous years but with the current operation Atalanta, the forces will work with different governments to address emerging piracy and the illegal group at Suez Canal,” said the Ambassador.

Accompanied by Spanish ambassador Christina Diaz and her Italian counterpart Roberto Natali, Ms Geiger said although the current threat by Somali piracy is classified as moderate off the Somali Coast, the attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has remained the biggest worry, resulting in the rerouting of vessels to a longer route through the Cape.

“Seychelles has played a key role in handling suspects arrested in the waters and now Kenya will be another country which EU has entered legal agreement with to allow for the trial of suspected pirates arrested by warships,” said the ambassador.

On May 14, six suspected pirates were handed over to the Seychelles authorities for trial by EU Navfor’s Operation Atalanta, allegedly from Somalia who were involved in the piracy attack to the Marshall Islands-flagged Merchant Vessel Chrystal Arctic on the May 10.

Operation Atalanta has legal agreements with Seychelles, which allows for the trial of suspected pirates arrested.

There have been growing concerns over a resurgence of Somali piracy with EU Navfor saying that two or more pirate action groups are active in the area of Socotra Island and 500m East of Socotra in the northwest Indian Ocean near the Gulf of Aden.

The Commanding Officer of the ship, Rear Admiral Francesco Saladino said Atalanta remains committed to supporting the country in the prosecution of the case until it goes to trial.

“Atalanta has a legal finish with countries it operates within their territories which guarantees the entire process within piracy events from deter, arrest, detention, and prosecution in accordance with international law,” said Mr Saladino.

Piracy, although largely suppressed, has not yet been eradicated. Criminal networks associated with piracy have diversified their activities and reoriented their activities towards other maritime crimes, such as the illicit trade of weapons and human trafficking.

At the sametime, deputy commander for civil-military engagement at US Africa Command Ambassador Robert Scott, visited Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles last week to meet with partner nation government officials and discuss the countries’ regional efforts to address maritime security challenges.

A focus throughout the trip was on the impact to the countries and ways to counter maritime security challenges the islands face, in waters that are seeing increasing traffic.

“Piracy, Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, trafficking, and other maritime security challenges severely impact the economies of African coastal nations, supporting their efforts is crucial, especially given the increased maritime traffic due to the conflict in the Gulf of Aden,” said Mr Scott.

Mr Scott’s visits to the Regional Coordination Operations Centre in Seychelles and Regional Maritime Information Fusion Center in Madagascar showcased how nations in the West Indian Ocean are working to counter these challenges.

The ambassador’s visit highlights US Africa Command’s 3D approach, which leverages diplomacy, development, and defense collaboration.

US Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, is one of 11 US Department of Defense combatant commands, each with a geographic or functional mission that provides command and control of military forces in peace and war.

US Africa Command employs the broad-reaching diplomacy, development, and defense approach to foster interagency efforts and help negate the drivers of conflict and extremism in Africa.