NAIROBI, November 25 – President Mwai Kibaki has called on the international community to step up measures to curb piracy in the Indian Ocean.
The President urged the US and EU on Tuesday to go beyond providing patrols on the pirate infested waters and institute strategies that would wipe out the menace completely.
“Piracy in the Coast of Somalia is impacting negatively on the economy of countries in the region as it is disrupting trade routes,” President Kibaki said during a meeting with US General William Ward, who paid him a courtesy call at his Harambee House office.
General Ward is the Commanding General of the US-Africa Command.
“There is also need to address the security situation in Somalia,” the Head of State emphasised, noting that Nairobi recently hosted an IGAD special conference on Somalia.
President Kibaki also advised shipping companies to use the safe routes created by NATO, EU and US patrols, as well as provide any necessary information to security teams patrolling the Indian Ocean that would help them nab the hijackers.
Piracy attacks on the sea-route have increased dramatically since the start of the year, and currently 17 ships are in pirate custody with a total of 250 crew.
These include the largest ever ship to be seized, a Saudi tanker with more than $100 million worth of crude oil on board, for which pirates are demanding a $25 million ransom.
On Monday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga sought help from the US to tackle the issue of piracy, saying it is threatening Kenya’s security and hurting international trade.
He asked General Ward to help Kenya beef up its capacity to monitor the Ocean, as well as Kenya’s border with Somalia. Mr Odinga expressed concern that piracy was driving up the cost of insurance for goods being shipped into Kenya, and also posed a new challenge to the country’s judicial systems.
Gen Ward on his part said that the US was aware that piracy had military implications for Kenya, and assured the PM of military support. He had a meeting with the PM at Treasury Building on Monday, accompanied the US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger, who was also at Tuesday’s talks between the US Commander and President Kibaki.
Gen Ward briefed the President on Africom’s activities in the region, which include military exchange, humanitarian response and training of personnel in African partner states.