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Piracy a costly affair, says Wetangula

NAIROBI, October 13 – The economies of countries along the Indian Ocean shoreline have been seriously affected by piracy, according to Kenya’s Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula.

Speaking in Nairobi during celebrations to mark the Spanish Independence Day, Wetang’ula urged the international community to urgently assist in patrolling the unsafe waters near Somalia which has been without a proper government for decades.

“The cost of doing business alone particularly along this region is going up. Insurance is going up. Some shipping lines fear coming here and this is affecting us all the way to South Africa,” he said.

He pointed out that most countries along the coastline lacked the necessary naval resources to adequately deal with the pirates who have hijacked at least 69 ships since the start of this year.

Mr Wetang’ula said: “We are appealing to those with naval ships deployed on the waters such as France, the US and UK to assist us.  We should work together so that we can combat the pirates that are lowering the level of business along the Indian Ocean coast.”

The Minister spoke as the hijack of a Ukranian ship carrying military cargo entered its third week with no end in sight.  The ship is carrying tanks and other weapons which were destined for the port of Mombasa but the ultimate destination has been a source of controversy with suggestions that the arms were headed to Southern Sudan and not Kenya.

On Saturday, the issued a 72-hour deadline for the ransom to be paid or else they blow up the Ukraine ship but analysts say it was a negotiation gimmick.

Last week, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution backing the use of force in dealing with the pirates but no action has been taken even though several war ships are keeping the seized vessel in their sights.

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Kenya remains adamant it will not negotiate with the prates who are demanding some Sh700 million, down from the original Sh3.5 billion.

Mr Wetang’ula said that the pirates were being engaged in talks to ensure a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“Kenya has stated and will continue to insist that it will not pay the ransom since doing that will only encourage a continuation of such acts,” he said. The Minister said he was confident that the pirates will not carry the threat to blow the ship.

At the same time, Somalia’s Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur said the Transitional Government negotiators had not been able to re-establish contact with the pirates since Saturday.

“We know that elders have been speaking with them and telling them to come to their senses but up to now we have not had any good outcome,” Mr Nur stated.

He also expressed confidence that the situation would be resolved peacefully adding that the piracy crisis had led to a rise in the price of basic goods in the country.

“Food prices in Somalia have really sky rocketed.  Ships that used to go to Somalia (such as those carrying humanitarian aid) cannot do so.  Even those that do have increased their insurance premiums and that it is affecting the Somali people,” the ambassador said.

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