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Kenya Willing to Try More Somali Pirates

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said his country is willing to bring more Somali pirates to trial, but only if richer nations help out financially. Mr. Odinga spoke about other Somali-related problems during an interview with VOA in the French Riviera city of Nice.

So far, Kenya has been the only east African country willing and able to bring Somali pirates to justice. Somalia itself has no functioning government. But just a few weeks ago, Kenya appeared to close the door on prosecuting more Somali pirates, saying its own judiciary is already overburdened with domestic cases.

Now, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga says his country is willing to put more Somali pirates on trial, that is, with help from wealthier nations whose vessels have been the targets of increasingly frequent and brazen pirate attacks off the Horn of Africa.

"We have said 'Yes, we are willing to continue with our efforts'. But we would also like the others to step up [with] the financial support that is required for us to be able to continue playing that role," he said.

Mr. Odinga said Kenya had been in discussions with a number of countries on the aid question, although he declined to offer further details. But he said Nairobi needs assistance in dealing with the Somali prisoners.

Mr. Odinga spoke in Nice, where French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been holding a summit gathering African leaders from about 40 countries. The Kenyan prime minister said his country has also paid a steep price for rampant piracy.

"Kenya is a major victim of piracy on the Indian Ocean. And as a result of it, the insurance companies have increased premium on goods coming into Kenya," he said. "The freight costs have also gone up because ships have to do a long detour route. That's why we see this as a major challenge, not only to ourselves, but to the region in general."

Mr. Odinga also called for closer cooperation in counter-terrorism, noting the chaotic situation in Somalia, marked by a strong Islamist insurgency, poses a major security risk for his country. He said Kenya has not forgotten the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Nairobi. Most of the casualties were Kenyan.

"We paid very heavily for the terrorist[s] attack in the past," he said. "That's why we are extra vigilant this time around. But we are saying this requires a closer cooperation, and also more resources are required, particularly to avert a terrorist attack on our territory."

Analysts say Western nations, along with African ones, should help Kenya shoulder the burden of bringing Somali pirates to trial. But for a variety of reasons, this has generally not happened. The United Nations Security Council recently adopted a resolution making it easier to prosecute the pirates internationally.