WORLD> Africa
Kenya maintains no negotiation policy with Somali pirates
Updated: 2008-10-14 10:40

NAIROBI -- The Kenyan government on Monday maintained that it will not negotiate with Somali pirates who are demanding US$10 million.

A handout photo provided by the US Navy shows the Belize-flagged Ukrainian cargo MV Faina in the Indian Ocean. Pirates holding a Ukrainian arms ship off the Somali coast have rejected a local mediator, delaying efforts to free the freighter laden with battle tanks and others arms. [Agencies]

"Kenya has stated and will continue to insist that it will not pay the ransom since doing that will only encourage a continuation of such acts," Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula said in Nairobi during celebrations to mark the Spanish Independence Day.

The minister said he is confident that the pirates will not carry the threat to blow up the ship, adding that the economies of countries along the Indian Ocean shoreline have been seriously affected by piracy.

Wetangula urged the international community to urgently assist in patrolling the unsafe waters near Somalia which has been without a proper government for decades.

"The cost of doing business alone particularly along this region is going up. Insurance is going up. Some shipping lines fear coming here and this is affecting us all the way to South Africa," he said.

He pointed out that most countries along the coastline lack the necessary naval resources to adequately deal with the pirates.

"We are appealing to those with naval ships deployed on the waters such as France, the United States and Britain to assist us. We should work together so that we can combat the pirates that are lowering the level of business along the Indian Ocean coast," he said.

The remarks came as the hijack of a Ukrainian ship carrying military cargo entered its third week with no end in sight.

The ship is carrying tanks and other weapons which were destined for the port of Mombasa but the ultimate destination has been a source of controversy with suggestions that the arms were headed to southern Sudan and not Kenya.

The Somali pirates over the weekend issued 72-hour deadline for the ransom to be paid or else they blow up the Ukraine ship but analysts say it was a negotiation gimmick. They have since extended the deadline.

The Kenyan government has maintained that the Russian-made arms were being delivered to Kenya to be used by its military.

BBC News last week revealed what it said was a copy of the freight manifest aboard the hijacked ship, MV Faina.

The alleged manifest showed contract numbers for 33 T-72 tanks, grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns containing the initials GOSS, which is an abbreviation commonly used in the region to refer to the government of southern Sudan. The manifest named Kenya's defense ministry as the consignee.

The developments came as Sudan summoned the Kenyan and Ethiopian ambassadors on Monday to protest against what it said were illegal shipments of arms to its semi-autonomous south.

According to state-owned Sudan News Agency (SUNA), Khartoum was protesting over "violations" linked to an arms shipment seized by pirates off Somalia's coast that Western diplomats said was bound for southern Sudan, and a plane-load of weapons from Addis Ababa.

Meanwhile, Somalia's Ambassador to Kenya Mohamed Ali Nur said the transitional government negotiators had not been able to re-establish contact with the pirates since Saturday.

"We know that elders have been speaking with them and telling them to come to their senses but up to now we have not had any good outcome," Nur stated.

He also expressed confidence that the situation would be resolved peacefully, adding that the piracy crisis had led to a rise in the price of basic goods in the country.

"Food prices in Somalia have really skyrocketed. Ships that used to go to Somalia such as those carrying humanitarian aid cannot do so. Even those that do have increased their insurance premiums and that it is affecting the Somali people," the ambassador said.