Piracy worries US Africa command

November 25, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 25 – The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) on Tuesday said it was concerned with the threat posed by pirates off the Coast of Somalia and pledged utmost support to curb the menace.

The Commander of the team General William Ward who is in Kenya for an official tour said he was working with other regional and international force commanders to combat the peril.

He said high level consultations were going on with relevant authorities in the command forces to come up with a wide-ranging solution.

“Certainly this is a very serious problem that we are faced with. It cannot be dealt with overnight and therefore it needs a comprehensive approach which we are all trying to come up with,” he said.

Gen Ward said his command was mainly involved in talks with other regional and individual member country forces to see how to enhance security in the maritime sector.

He did not elaborate on the exact cause of action to be taken once the ‘high level talks’ are completed.

“It will be a solution that will curb piracy in the affected parts of the Gulf of Aden and the Somalia coast,” he added.

When put to task by journalists to explain why relevant forces including AFRICOM were taking too long to come up with a lasting solution on the piracy crisis, Gen Ward said there was no immediate option.

“This is a problem that needs a coordinated approach. And for that kind of approach to be found, there must be a framework developed to deal with it. It is the framework that is being worked on,” he said.

The US ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger who attended the press conference said talks were underway with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia to restore peace in the lawless country.

He said the international community was keen to ensure there was no more fighting in Somalia where armed militia groups and pirates continued to operate with the high levels of impunity.

“It is a concern for all and the international community is keenly following the developments in Somalia,” he said.

Gen Ward told reporters that his command would work with various forces including the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) which announced a day earlier  that it planned to send troops to protect crucial trade routes in the Indian Ocean once fully operational.

Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula who spoke on the sidelines of the force’s command-post launch in Nairobi on Monday, said EASBRIG would also send its troops to the lawless Somalia and other East African nations whenever need arose.

Mr Wetangula singled out piracy and the instability in Somalia as the major problem facing member countries and assured that they could be tackled conclusively once the force starts its operations.

“I am urging EASBRIG to include piracy in its operational framework because it is one of the major challenges we are facing.  It will play a key role once it adapts maritime capabilities to protect trade routes against piracy,” he added.

EASBRIG Commander Brig Gen Osman Nour Soubagale said the force was up to the challenge and would take up all the tasks once it is ready in 2010.

He said the AU had developed an African common defence and security policy in 2004 that would pave the way towards the full establishment of an African Stand-by Force capable of rapid deployment in two years time.



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