Sunday, October 19, 2008


Piracy in High Seas

Over the past month a drama has been unfolding off the coast of East Africa. An Ukrainians ship laden with arms destined for Kenya has been commandeered by a rag tag army of pirates armed with all sorts of short-range weapons. The pattern of highjacking has developed from small boats to bigger ships. The pirates have been emboldened by the apparent lack of deterrence in the region.
Kenya’s strategy has been unknown, ineffective and in some way emboldening the pirates. Kenya has not shown by word or deeds its capacity to protect her interests in the region. The maintenance of clear, open and safe sea-lanes on the east coast of Africa is paramount for the sovereignty and security of Kenya. Kenya should not condone any interference with maritime security near her borders. When such a threat is from a bandit organization from an anarchic neighbor, it is demeaning and unacceptable that we are reduced to the level of contemplating ransom payment for release of our cargo. Whether the cargo on board the high jacked vessel was destined for Kenya or not, the fact remains that the sea-lanes are threatened and something has to be done.
Kenya has a duty, indeed a responsibility to demand the cessation of such activities on her doorstep. Kenya should act in conjunction with other maritime nations of the Indian Ocean to ensure safety of all ships in the region. These sea-lanes are vital to our economy and national security. All our oil imports from the Middle East pass through here, all our imports from China, India, Japan and other countries of the east pass through here. If today we allow these pirates to take one ship and demand compensation, tomorrow they will take a whole oil tanker. One cannot imagine the consequence, environmental, political and economic if, God forbid, they were to take one such tanker and blow it up in the ocean.
We need decisive early action. Kenya must flex her muscles and show her willingness to step in and protect shipping in the area. Kenya should send her ships to patrol the region. Given the ships are not equipped for prolonged sea stay, you nevertheless need to bark and show your fangs even if you cannot bite. Those thugs deserve to be blown to oblivion and the world will not shed tears over them.
The moment they get emboldened, they are going to get sympathizers from the international terror organizations and soon we will be dealing not with the ragtag pirates but with Al Qaeida and others on our doorstep. The time to stem this tide is now. Back your bark with the sound of your guns, conduct exercises in the region, show them the consequences of their actions, let them see you can blow them to smithereens to protect our national interest.
Kenya should lead in this responsibility. We cannot wait for America to come and do it for us, yes we may need their help, but let us show those pirates that the 21st century is not the age of piracy. Once they get enough revenue from the sea, they will start getting guns, which will be used along our borders and eventually inside our country. Let us nip this menace in the bud, let our navy, army and air force flex their muscles along the common border. Test the endurance of our navy along the international waters off the coast of Somalia. Let us work with other maritime powers of the Indian Ocean especially India and South Africa. Let us dare those bandits to touch our ships and let us send them a clear message, keep off the waters off our coastline. If we are not a nation of cowards, let us take the dare!
Are we declaring war on Somalia no. Are we declaring war on pirates you bet, be they Somalis, Kenyans or whatever breed. The time to act is now.

This is a tall order for our leaders to accept. Always united at the dining table but hopelessly incapable to work together for a common good. Kenyan leaders have failed to resolve serious internal issues. Do not expect them to take the dare. I long for the day when commoners will take their rightful place and demand by right or might to be heard. I hear you, but I do not think the leaders are listening.
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