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EU High Representative Pushes Kenyan Commitment to Combat Piracy

  • Michael Onyiego

The European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Chief says she has secured Kenya's commitment to prosecute pirates during a four-day visit to the region.

EU High Representative Catherine Ashton met with Kenyan officials in the past two days to discuss collaborative efforts to combat piracy off of the Somali coast.

Kenya has been a focal point in the fight against international piracy. Hijackings often occur in or near Kenyan waters and the east African nation has agreed with a number of countries, including the United States and the European Union, to detain pirates captured by international patrols.

Kenya has prosecuted scores of pirates during the past few years, but last month announced it would not take any more, saying the burden put an undue strain on its limited resources and overstretched judicial system. Kenya has asked for more international support, but has refused to publicly specify what that support would entail.

In a news conference with Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula, Ashton said progress has been made on the issue of burden sharing.

"We had fruitful and good discussions to reconcile the immediate issues," said Catherine Ashton. "That was to agree on an understanding that Kenyans will continue to deal with pirates but with the recognition that there is more that we need to do to support, internationally, those efforts."

Ashton assured Kenyans a regional and international approach would be part of that support, and highlighted a newly established court in the Seychelles to demonstrate European commitment.

Earlier this month, the government of Seychelles and the European Union announced the establishment of a regional center to combat piracy that includes a special court.

Critics have pointed out the Seychelles court has an even more limited capacity to detain and prosecute pirates than its Kenyan counterpart, but Ashton clarified the court is merely a piece in a multifaceted approach to the issue.

The two also discussed the capacity of the Somali government. Foreign Minister Wetang'ula said stabilizing Somalia would be a key component in any attempt to stop pirates from attacking ships off of the east-African coast.

"Piracy off the Somali coast is not born at sea; it is born on land," said Moses Wetang'ula. "And to fight piracy successfully we must focus on how to assist our brothers and sisters in Somalia, find a degree of normalcy so that they can have a functional government and emerge from the unenviable status of a failed state."

Ashton said the Somali crisis would be specifically addressed at an international conference this weekend in Istanbul.

The EU High Representative will travel to Tanzania before arriving in the Seychelles to attend a regional forum on piracy prevention.

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