MOMBASA, Kenya, Dec 15 – The government has launched air and sea patrols to fight piracy in the Kenyan waters near the insecure Somali coastline.
Chief of General Staff (CGS) Jeremiah Kianga said Monday that no efforts would be spared in securing the coastline.
“Kenya will come out boldly to tackle piracy and stringent measures have been put in place to counter any acts of piracy in Kenyan waters,” said Mr Kianga.
He spoke as he flagged off two F5 patrol attack aircrafts at the Mombasa’s Moi International Airport.
Of late, Somali pirates have increasingly been extending their area of operations from the Gulf of Aden to the territorial waters of Kenya and Tanzania while preying on passing ships.
“We have put pirates on notice that we shall sink their boats and ships if the try to cross into Kenyan waters,” said Mr Kianga.
“I want to assure security to all local and international users of the Indian Ocean in the Kenyan waters,” added the CGS.
He said the latest attacks shows the pirates are becoming bolder and extending their reach farther from their base in Somalia.
"We are expecting about 16 cruise ships at the port of Mombasa between December and March next year and we want to ensure the safety of the incoming ships is given top priority,” Mr Kianga said.
The CGS said the military is closely monitoring the increasing piracy threats in the Indian Ocean.
"We have ships at the Indian Ocean, aircraft surveillance and fighters ready to respond with any kind of distress in the ocean,” he said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Monday that the European Union (EU) navy escorts will protect ships loaded with WFP food against piracy along the Somali coastline.
In a statement issued in Nairobi, the WFP said that the deployment was a longer-term solution that would help save lives in Somalia.
“Pirates have been threatening to cut off the humanitarian lifeline to Somalia, but now the EU is providing the comprehensive protection we have been calling for,” said WFP’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer, Ramiro Lopes da Silva.
“This means we can guarantee a flow of food assistance to the people of Somalia who are suffering from drought, conflict, and the impact of high food prices,” he added in a statement issued to the press in Nairobi.
The first of the ships to be protected by the EU — the MV Semlow — left Mombasa port on Sunday, loaded with enough food to feed more than 50,000 people for a month, alongside other humanitarian cargo. It was accompanied by the British frigate HMS Northumberland.
The EU force will provide escort vessels to WFP for up to a year. This will ensure that there should not be any breaks in protection nor a need for frequent appeals for replacements – which has been the case until now, the statement noted.
The EU’s “Operation Atlanta” includes naval escorts for WFP ships, escorts for commercial shipping, aerial surveillance and measures to deter, prevent and intervene in order to bring an end to acts of piracy and armed robbery off the Somali coast. It is the first-ever EU naval operation and was established under the French presidency of the European Union.
According to the statement, naval escorts for WFP ships heading to Somalia are vital for WFP to continue meeting increased needs in Somalia.
Sixty shipments of more than 260,000 metric tons of WFP food – enough to feed 1.3 million people for a year – have arrived in Somalia so far this year despite it being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia with more than 100 pirate attacks.
The 260,000 metric tons of WFP food shipped in 2008 is almost four times the amount of food shipped in 2007, three times what was shipped in 2006 and eight times the amount in 2005.
Some 100 ships have been attacked off the Somali coast this year, of which 40 have been hijacked.
Thirteen ships remain in the hands of pirates, including a Saudi super tanker carrying $100 million worth of crude and a Ukrainian ship with 33 battle tanks.