, NAIROBI, Kenya, September 26 – A Norwegian ship carrying UN cargo that was detained in Mombasa since last week on claims that it was transporting undeclared firearms has been released and allowed to sail.
Police had said that the ship MV Hoegh Transporters was also carrying powder which they initially thought were drugs—but which tested negative.
Lawyer Cliff Ombetta who is representing the ship owners and the crew told journalists in Mombasa that he will be filing suit in court, demanding compensation and apology from the Kenyan authorities.
“It has emerged that the issues that had been raised with so much hullabaloo are no longer issues. The arms were actually properly carried and were supposed to be delivered to DRC Congo. The powder seized in the ship for the purpose of analysis as to whether they were drugs have now been checked and was found that they were not,” Ombetta said, “The powder was maize flour, salt and sugar.”
He said the guns found on the ship were properly declared with the customs and had been dismantled from the 257 UN trucks and kept in compartments.
“These are the guns they (police) said were being carried without proper declaration yet they are clearly stated on the Bill of Lading which arrived long before the ship docked,” he said, further accusing the Kenyan government of failing to involve UN officials in the search.
He protested at the manner in which the crew members were treated, yet they had not committed any crimes. “We will sue for their illegal detention because they did not deserve that at all.”
It was feared that the ship would be blown up if found to be carrying drugs, following the destruction of two vessels in recent months after they were found to be trafficking drugs in Mombasa.
Kenyan authorities were not willing to comment on the matter, even after they earlier announced that they had detained the ship and arrested 20 crew members whom they planned to charge in court.
Police Spokesman Charles Owino when reached for comment on Saturday morning said “we have no comment at all, please contact the Foreign Affairs Ministry.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.
The UN had on Friday insisted that all the cargo, including the firearms were duly declared and accused the Kenyan government of breaching protocol by detaining the ship and arresting her crew.
In a statement attributed to the Secretary General’s spokesman, the UN stated that the weapons were part of a legitimate and declared Contingent Owner Equipment cargo packed in Mumbai, India with destination the Indian Battalion peacekeepers in the DRC.
The statement further indicated that it is normal practice for weapons attached to the APCs to be dismantled and placed inside the carriers in order to avoid damage whilst being shipped.
The UN had expressed their displeasure with how the investigations were handled by Kenyan authorities who did not invite UN officials during the search of the ship.