Saturday, October 4, 2008

Kenya's Response To Somali Piracy

In a disturbing development to recent events in the waters off Somalia, the Kenyan government has arrested prominent seafarers' advocate Andrew Mwangura in the port city of Mombasa, charging him with remarks he made about the recent hijacking of the MV Faina, the vessel transporting tanks, munitions and other weapons. Mwangura has been one of the most vocal opponents of piracy in East Africa, using his local connections to help publicize the plight of mariners attacked and held hostage by pirates in that region.

According to the Kenyan newspaper, The Standard, Mwangura was arrrested Wednesday evening outside their Mombasa office, police taking him away in a convoy of six vehicles. The government claims he made alarming and false statements about the Faina incident, specifically by saying that the military cargo was destined for southern Sudan. This appears to have embarrassed the government in Nairobi, who said the tanks and other material were intended for the Kenyan military. According to The International Herald Tribune, Kenyan officials say "he has fallen for pirates' propaganda", implying Mwangura has become a puppet voice for the Somali gangs.

As someone who knows Mwangura well and has seen his tireless work on behalf of mariners in East Africa, the actions of the Kenyan authorities appear to be an attempt to stifle investigations into the real destination for the cargo. Unfortunately, these efforts may be too late, for another Kenyan media outlet, The Daily Nation, is already reporting that "Impeccable sources in Kenya’s military confided that the tanks and other arms — including anti-aircraft guns and rocket propelled grenades — were going to Mombasa only to be off-loaded and sent on to Juba, the South Sudan capital.".

Mwangura is expected to be held for several more days while police continue their investigations.
Andrew Mwangura