Somali pirate kingpins unpunished, official says
By Andrew Cawthorne
October 27, 2008
Somali pirates in small boats hijack the MV Faina, a Belize-flagged cargo ship owned and operated by Kaalbye Shipping Ukraine, September 25, 2008, in this handout photo released September 28, 2008.
NAIROBI, Oct 27 (Reuters) - New international navy patrols may deter piracy off Somalia, but the kingpins remain untroubled enjoying the fruits of this year`s rash of hijackings in cities around the world, a regional maritime official said.
"There really isn`t a military solution. The boys on the boats are just the foot-soldiers," said Andrew Mwangura, whose East African Seafarers` Association monitors piracy.
"The commanders and generals -- the financiers and the organisers behind it all -- are in Dubai, Nairobi, Mombasa, and even Canada and London, sitting in their hotels, communicating via laptops, and making big money."
Scores of attacks in the busy Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean shipping lanes off Somalia this year have shocked the industry, causing higher insurance costs, bringing millions of dollars of ransom payments, and stirring a belated international response.
The European Union and NATO alliance are sending ships to the area, while the U.S. and French navies are patrolling, and a Russian warship has also been ordered in.
While some advocate a hard strike on the pirates, there are complicating factors: risks to hostages, different locations of the various gangs, problems identifying who pirates are before they have taken a boat, and international legal complications once suspects are captured.
"The foreign patrols should calm the situation. But they cannot just attack a ship, it`s not that simple," Mwangura said in an interview on Sunday. "We need to go to the roots."
"POWERFUL PEOPLE" ANNOYED
Mwangura, who goes to court in Mombasa on Thursday charged by the Kenyan government with "alarmist" information about one ship`s capture, believes a network of Somali businessmen abroad and corrupt accomplices are the driving force for piracy.
"Many people are making good money from instability in Somalia," he said.
Mwangura irked the Kenyan government by saying tanks and other military equipment on a Ukrainian ship captured last month off Somalia were bound for South Sudan and not Kenya.
Embarrassed by the accusation, given that it sponsored a 2005 north-south peace deal in Sudan, Kenya has accused Mwangura of being a "spokesman" for the pirates and accused him of spreading false information and possessing $2 of marijuana.
Nairobi says the tanks were for its military, though Western diplomats in the region back Mwangura`s version.
"They want to silence me, it is obvious," said Mwangura. He was in Nairobi over the weekend to meet Ukrainian officials about the plight of the hijacked MV Faina boat, with its controversial military cargo and 20 crew members.
Mwangura said authorities in the region were turning a blind eye to illegal fishing, toxic dumping, drug- and gun-running, illegal charcoal shipments, and human trafficking in Somali waters that were all indirectly fuelling piracy.
"All these businesses inter-link. A foreign ship pays a warlord to be allowed to fish illegally off Somalia, and that money then funds the piracy," he said.
"But when you start denouncing these things, powerful people get upset because you are spoiling their game."
Mwangura said Somali pirates were still holding about eight ships, with more than 200 hostages aboard.
About 30 ships have been hijacked this year out of 87 attacks, according to his organisation which collects information from relatives, crews and other maritime groups.
The situation is so bad, some ships are considering going round the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa. "This would add several weeks to the duration of many ships` voyages and would have severe consequences for international trade," he said.
© 2008 Reuters Limited
Seafarers` Organisation Head Arrested for `False Statements` On Arms Shipment Destination [press release]
October 07, 2008
Oct 07, 2008 (Reporters sans Frontieres/All Africa Global Media) -- Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of ex-journalist Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers assistance programme, who was arrested by Kenyan police on 1 October for "making false statements".
Mwangura contradicted the official version put out by the Kenyan government about the destination of Ukrainian cargo ship, the Faina, seized by pirates off the Somali coast on 25 September, heading for the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
Mwangura was arrested as he left the offices of the Standard newspaper in Mombasa and taken to the police station, where he is still being detained. He is due to appear before a judge on 7 October.
Mwangura received a prize in 2006 from the Chamber of International Commerce - commercial crime services, for his work in defence of sailors and particularly against murder and piracy in east Africa. He has helped obtain the release of several sailors taken hostage.
The Faina is carrying around 30 Soviet-made assault tanks, rocket launchers and anti-aircraft batteries and around 14,000 munitions.
Since the ship was seized by pirates, there has been a continuing argument about the destination of the arms. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments say the weapons were intended for Kenya. But Mwangura has claimed they are in fact destined for South Sudan. He said he has seen documents proving his claim.
He has also said that four Ukrainian cargo ships, also loaded with weapons, have already transited through the port of Mombasa in the last year.
Several different statements have been made to back up this claim, including that of Nathan Christensen, spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain.
The Faina is currently anchored off the port of Hobyo, about 500 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu, surrounded by US warships.
Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.
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