, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – The European Union says it will support the formation of an East African team that will review how to tackle piracy in the Horn of Africa.
Baroness Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said on Wednesday that the EU would champion greater collaboration between representative ministers of the various countries in the region.
At a joint press conference with Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, Baroness Ashton said the EU appreciates Kenya’s difficult position having borne the brunt of attempts to try pirates.
“Governments in the region have a myriad of challenges that may not be very apparent at first instance; there are challenges ranging from overloaded judicial systems, lack of space to house the suspects and language barriers,” said Baroness Ashton.
Due to limited capacity of Kenyan courts and prisons as well as financial costs and security concerns, the country can only accept pirates for trial on a case-by-case basis, Mr Wetangula said, adding that such decisions lie within the Attorney General’s jurisdiction.
"A better way of dealing with this menace has to be evolved," he said. "This is an international responsibility; it should not be left as a burden on Kenya\’s shoulders".
Nations neighbouring Kenya should provide more support as the number of pirates captured by European Union forces off the East African coast increases, he said.
The Baroness is visiting Kenya, Tanzania and the Republic of Seychelles between May 18 and 21 to press for more help in prosecuting Somali pirates.
Mr Wetangula said it is estimated that the Kenyan economy loses as much as Sh2 billion per annum due to piracy.
"Battling pirates at sea is not the ultimate solution. The problem is borne on land and it is important for the international community to restore ‘normalcy’ in Somalia,” he said.
Baroness Ashton said he European Union is building up a comprehensive engagement in Somalia, with a view to responding to the priority needs of the Somali people and stabilising the country.
“The EU is committed to a regional approach, based on regional ownership and EU support for the countries in the region in their efforts to ensure the prosecution and detention of suspected pirates,” she assured.
At an earlier meeting with President Mwai Kibaki, Baroness Ashton said the EU has assured support to the Kenya government in its efforts to implement institutional reforms.
Speaking when she met President Mwai Kibaki at Harambee House earlier, Baroness Ashton encouraged the government to remain steadfast on the reform agenda.
Baroness Ashton, who is also the Vice-President of the European Commission, welcomed the progress Kenya has made towards achieving a new Constitution.
President Kibaki said that the problem of piracy in the Indian Ocean required a more coordinated and holistic approach which should be informed by the principle of fairness and shared international responsibility.