Diplomatic row erupts over piracy aid payments
Kenya's U-turn over a deal to try Somali pirate suspects is based on Nairobi"s conviction that the European Union has been slow to hand over cash promised months ago, according to people close to the situation.
The EU is now seeking a meeting with the Kenyan government to find out where it stands, and is actively looking for other countries in the region willing to undertake prosecutions. EU sources insist that Kenya has not made any formal complaints over the issue.
Somalia"s east African neighbour holds around 100 alleged pirates, under agreements struck with several Western nations in 2009, and hailed at the time as a breakthrough in efforts to ensure that those accused of piracy are accorded due process.
European and north American states have so far been reluctant to try pirates under their own jurisdiction, as that is seen as opening up the prospect of asylum applications.
The breakdown in the system comes after the Kenyan authorities last month tabled notice of cancellation to the British and Danish embassies in Nairobi, and presumably to other embassies as well.
According to Kenyan politicians, piracy trials are placing an intolerable burden on prisons and courts. But EU officials point out that pirate suspects take up only 0.2% of Kenya"s prison capacity.
A London-based Kenyan diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: ?There is a general feeling that the international community is not giving Kenya enough support. For example, the EU pledged to give millions of euros for strengthening the court process and improvement of jail conditions. But the money is yet to come.
?What our government is doing is putting on a little pressure, so that the support which is expected is given. But I do not think Kenya will pull out altogether.?
A maritime security specialist involved in counter-piracy work added: ?It is true that they have not had everything that they were expecting. The Kenyans agreed to these memoranda of understanding with the EU on the understanding they would get help with development of legal infrastructure.?
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has reportedly given $1m to Kenya, precisely for such purposes.
Attempts to contact UNODC for clarification of this point proved unsuccessful.
Douglas Guilfoyle of University College London, a specialist in piracy law, observed: ?The money is on the pipeline, both from the EU and a trust fund established by the UN Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
?But the trust fund has taken a while to get up and moving. Establishing the framework for managing it took longer than Kenya would have liked.?
The problem for the EU has now become what to do with captured pirates. The Seychelles has agreed to take some suspects for prosecution, on the condition that prison sentences are served elsewhere. Tanzania is seemingly unresponsive to EU entreaties.
The US has already set a precedent by indicting so-called "teen pirate" Abduwali Muse, who was captured during the firefight that led to the recovery of US-flag Maersk boxship Maersk Alabama last year. A further five Somalis are expected to face trial in the US shortly.
Meanwhile, 10 Somalis recently captured by a Dutch frigate after attacking German containership Taipan are set to be tried in Hamburg, after the Dutch authorities warned that they would be released unless Germany wished to push ahead with legal action.
The situation is now so bad that it is being talked about as "the-catch-and-release scheme", the security specialist added. ?It is like when I go fishing. I catch a couple of trout and then I have to put one of them back,? he quipped.