The United States Friday gave six powerful armored speedboats to Kenya in a bid to increase security along the country's Indian Ocean coastline. The donation follows a partial lifting of a freeze on military aid to Kenya and other countries that the United States imposed last year over the issue of the International Criminal Court.
The boats, worth $3 million, were presented to the Kenyan navy in a ceremony in the coastal town of Mombasa.
U.S. Ambassador Michael Ranneberger explains to VOA that the boats are meant to increase security in the region.
"They [the Kenyan government] are facing problems on the coast with increased narcotics trafficking, with small arms trafficking, illicit goods and of course the danger of terrorism," he said.
A major concern to Kenyan and U.S. officials is the expansion of the Union of Islamic Courts in neighboring Somalia. The Islamic courts continue to take control over more parts of the country, posing a serious challenge to the transitional government there.
The United States has accused the courts of having links to terrorists and is concerned that Somalia might become a terrorist haven.
Last week, the courts captured the port city of Kismayo, about 100 kilometers east of the Kenyan border. The Kenyan government has stepped up its border and sea patrols following a large influx of Somali refugees into Kenya.
Increased incidents of piracy off the coast of Somalia have also made the waters of the Indian Ocean among the most dangerous in the world for boat transportation.
Ambassador Ranneberger tells VOA the decision to donate the boats was made before recent developments in Somalia occurred, but that the U.S. and Kenyan governments are concerned about the courts' expansion.
"The purpose of this donation has from the outset been to combat terrorism and to fight insecurity in all forms, and this situation in Somalia being what it is, this donation is particularly timely," he said.
Friday's ceremony follows on the heels of a partial re-instatement of military aid to Kenya and 20 other countries that the United States froze last year over the issue of the International Criminal Court.
The United States froze the money after Kenya and the other countries refused to sign an international agreement granting immunity to U.S. citizens facing genocide, war crimes, and other charges under the Hague-based court.
In the case of Kenya, more than $650,000 in U.S. military education and training has been restored, but there is still more than $15 million meant for procurement of military equipment and other support that remains frozen.
Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua tells VOA he thinks the remaining ban is relatively inconsequential.
"Whether the ban is lifted or not we'll continue doing the work that we need to do to getting our security in shape and getting our people assisted in whatever way," he said.
With or without aid from other countries, Mutua said Kenya is heading toward a stage where it is becoming more self-reliant.