Kenya backtracks on pirates deal

April 1, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 1 – The government has issued a six months notice to terminate United Nations agreements that require member states to prosecute suspected pirates captured within their waters’ jurisdictions.

Attorney General Amos Wako on Thursday said that the Cabinet would also meet to review any developments that have so far arisen as a result of the agreements including security concerns and strains on the country’s judicial system.

He added that other member states that were part of the UN conventions and who signed the MoU had been lax in taking up pirates, leaving the entire responsibility to Kenya. He admitted that the Kenya did not foresee the magnitude that the MoU’s outcome would have.

“Everybody underestimated the number of pirates that we were going to prosecute. We all thought that it would be one or two or three maximum 10 or so. But the problem became far much bigger than we thought. Our assumption also that other member countries would also take up their responsibilities again have not been borne out,” he said.

The AG who spoke at a media briefing on compensation for Mau Mau war veterans was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula who said Kenya had in the past two weeks declined to take in any supposed pirates.

He added that the cost of doing business at the Kenyan coast went up by 40 percent at the peak of piracy as a result of insurance premium costs to mitigate the increased insecurity. 

“Ships coming to Mombasa from Mediterranean ports had to go round the Cape of Good Hope to get to Mombasa. We discharged our international obligations; others shied away from doing so and we cannot bear the burden of the international responsibility anymore. We have declined to accept captured pirates,” he said.

The AG also took issue with the Memorandum of Understanding whose stipulations indicated that the abilities of member countries to host and prosecute arrested pirates would be enhanced. He said that so far there had been no help in adequately preparing the facilities.

“Kenya entered into this agreement on the understanding that the capacities of the departments involved would be increased by appropriate assistance from the countries with whom we entered into the agreement. It has reached a level where even the office of the AG thinks the MoU should be revised,” he said.

Mr Wako also said that the threats posed by pirates did not just affect Kenya and as such it was unfair for countries that were member states of the United Conventions to leave the entire prosecuting mandate to Kenya, “It is only Kenya which is prosecuting and yet this is a problem of countries that are also our neighbours.” 

He also admitted that the Kenyan judicial system could not deal with the whole piracy menace as it had other challenges. Mr Wako further observed that Kenya was not the only country faced with challenges to prosecute pirates.

“Take into the account that in the history of the world even the United States has not prosecuted more than two pirate cases. Even other developed countries as of now have only prosecuted one or two,” he said.

The AG also maintained that his office was not involved in the signing of the MoU to prosecute pirates and that it was signed by the Foreign Affairs minister.

“He made that decision which was informed by the international obligations which the government together and other members of the international community have of suppressing piracy. There were a number of United Nations resolutions and in fact in December 2008 there was a big conference on the piracy issue of Mogadishu which is when we came into the picture,” he said.

Mr Wetangula also cited examples of countries that were signatory to the Law of the Sea which had so far abdicated their responsibility, “Tanzania declined to do anything; Seychelles took on a few but is too small to cater for too many, Yemen took on a few but lacked sufficient capacity so we want that law reviewed.”


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