Piracy: Kenyan families cry for kin

March 23, 2010 12:00 am

, MOMBASA, Kenya, Mar 23 – “Have mercy on us! The innocent seafarers you are holding are our bread winners. Please release them.”

These were the words of sobbing Dorcas Wanda whose husband is among 10 Kenyans held by suspected Somali pirates on board FV Sakoba, which was captured off the Tanzanian coast on March 3 this year.

"I understand the vessel is running out of fuel and we fear for their lives. We are in a dilemma and I have been spending sleepless nights since my husband was captured," adds Wanda as she tightly holds her crying baby girl.

Another woman tells us: "I cannot eat when I remember my son Anthony aged 20 years who is under the mercy of the pirates. My husband died some years back and Anthony who is the youngest of the crew members is the sole bread winner. He travelled once and he came back safe. Please let my son come back home," she pleads with tears rolling down her cheeks.

Frida Olalo, whose husband John Olalo is among the detained crew members is appealing to the government to intervene and have their kin freed by the pirates.

"If the government cares for its people, let it help us. We have not heard anything from the government and we wonder what was happening with the crew members," Frida said.

On Tuesday, the family members, civil society activists and the Kenya Seafarers Association held a peaceful demonstration in Mombasa to demand the intervention of the government and the Kenya Maritime Authority.

The demonstration was however halted by the police as the protestors headed to the authority’s offices to hand in a petition.  One of the human rights activists Hassan Greeve was detained.

The demonstrators blamed the government for failing to give them proper information about their distressed relatives.

"Why should I be arrested and yet we are demanding for our rights. We want to be assured of the safety of seafarers,” said Mr Greeve.

"There is no drinking water, provisions and fuel on board (the vessel) and in fact, the crews are fighting for their survival", claimed Mr Greeve as the police dispersed the demonstration.

The authority\’s public relations Officer Tumaini Nyamoya said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was handling the issue.

"Please give the government ample time to handle the issue. This is a delicate issue, which needs diplomacy,” Nyamoya said in an interview.

In the memorandum, the families also want the government to state the cause of the death of seafarer Juma Kumbu who passed away under mysterious circumstances at a hospital in Dar-es-salaam.

They further want the Kenya Maritime Authority to assist Mr Kumbu\’s family to bring the body back home for burial and allow an independent pathologist to carry out a post mortem.

The families further want the authority to use all means at its disposal to ensure safety of the distressed seafarers and all other crew members under the mercy of the pirates.


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