Thursday, October 02, 2008

Shooting the Messenger

The BBC is reporting that Kenyan police have arrested Andrew Mwangura, who's the spokesman for the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Programme, over allegations that the tanks and weapons aboard the recently hijacked Ukranian ship, MV Faina, were destined for the autonomous government of South Sudan in a possible contravention of the Sudan Peace Accord, and not Kenya as the government claims. According to the Associated Press, Mr. Mwangura was the first to publicly state this though the claim has been subsequently repeated by a US navy spokesman. Kenya, Sudan and the Ukraine flatly reject the allegation.

The police have been looking for Mwangura since Tuesday apparently because "he has been too vocal on the media, we want him to share with us what he knows of these pirates," a police official reportedly told AFP.
"We just want to question him on a few issues. It appears he knows more on the ship. We want him to tell us about this southern Sudan controversy about the arms," added another official.
"All I can tell you is that he is being investigated for issuing alarming statements. Those are the charges he is likely to face," said another official attached to the Criminal Investigations Department.
The good folks at Mars Group Kenya have posted a series of questions which I think the Kenyan Government needs to clear up if we're to be convined that there is no sinister motive behind this arrest. Earlier this week, Mwangura had said that the Kenyan authorities had banned him from speaking to the media on the piracy saga. On what authority, I wonder? Whatever happened to freedom of expression? According Section 66 of the Penal Code (Hat Tip: Kenya Law Reports)
66. (1) Any person who publishes any false statement, rumour or report which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace is guilty of a misdemeanour.
(2) It shall be a defence to a charge under subsection (1) if the accused proves that, prior to publication, he took such measures to verify the accuracy of the statement, rumour or report as to lead him reasonably to believe that it was true.
According to The Scotsman (Hat Tip: Dinah Lord), Mwangura, 45, has run the Seafarer's Assistance Programme for the past 12 years, tracking down missing vessels, investigating deaths at sea and negotiating the release of hostages. 
When one of their ships goes missing, the millionaire owners telephone Andrew Mwangura, a former seaman who lives in a two-room shack and relies on internet cafes to communicate with his global network of contacts.
This would lead any right-thinking person to believe that he knows what he is talking about. His arrest therefore constitutes an abuse of the powers granted under Section 66. The police themselves claim ignorance of the facts he clams to advance, have not demonstrated a prima facie case that what he says is untrue (it all comes down to whether you belive Alfred Mutua or the US Navy) and I fail to see how whistle-blowing on the gun-running activities of the Kenyan Government "is likely to cause fear and alarm to the public or to disturb the public peace." 

I think the situation is probably as Mwangura himself put it: "The government doesn't like what we do and there are lots of people making money from piracy who would like us out of business."
The gangs, he says, are masterminded by crimelords in Dubai and Nairobi who monitor shipping routes for lucrative targets. They pass directions on to as many as five pirate gangs who pay a "licence fee" to Somali politicians or clan elders. "The majority of the Somali leaders are warlords or mafia-like businessmen connected to pirates, arms smugglers, people-traffickers, illegal fishing, logging," he says. "A thief can't catch a thief." The first Mr Mwangura hears of a hijack is a phone call from a Somali source or a shipping company desperate to trace a missing vessel. He uses a network of contacts in Somalia to find the ship and make contact with the hijackers. "If we can find a cell number for the gunmen and ask to speak to the crew to make sure they are safe, then often we can, as long as we don't give away the position of the ship," he says.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

DoD News Briefing with Geoff Morrell from the Pentagon

Presenter: Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell September 30th 2008

Q Where do you think that cargo [on the hijacked ship] was intended to go? And is that -- is the intended destination a concern?

MR. MORRELL: I think the intended destination is less a concern than seeing this, at least in the near term, come to a peaceful solution -- a peaceful resolution.

We take -- and have no reason not to take -- the president of Kenya at his word when he expressed to the president of the United States yesterday that this shipment was bound for his government, which is a peaceful government with legitimate self-defense needs. And so we have no reason to believe that this cargo was not destined to government of Kenya as their president suggests.

But obviously, what we're concerned about now it's not in the control of those people who intended to deliver it to the government of Kenya. It's now in the control of pirates, to whom we do not know they will sell this material. And that's what's of concern now. Will it end up in the hands of responsible -- of a responsible entity, such as the government of Kenya, who would deal with it appropriately or will it end up in the hands of terrorists? And that's why we have a number of ships on-site to ensure that this does not end up in the wrong hands.

Q Does the government of Kenya have a history of buying sophisticated arms from Russia or Ukraine or did this come as a surprise to us, that they were --

MR. MORRELL: Frankly, Ken, I don't know. I don't know the government of Kenya's buying history. You know, we know them as a government that is obviously in good enough standing that they can meet with the president of the United States yesterday, so I don't know that we have an issue with anything they may wish to purchase for legitimate self-defense reasons, but I don't have any insight into what they've purchased in the past.

Q Why would the government of Kenya need T-72s?

MR. MORRELL: I think that's a good question to address to them.