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Ship carrying military arms finally lands at Mombasa port

BUSIA
By | April 5th 2011

By Philip Mwakio

The controversial ship carrying anti-aircraft guns and ammunition, which was detained in Angolan Port City of Lobito has finally docked at the port of Mombasa.

The US-flagged Maersk Constellation docked at Kilindini at noon Monday, loaded with six containers.

The State had sought to keep its arrival secret, with the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), which issues a 14-day shipping details on movement of vessels, failing to indicate its arrival.

High-ranking uniformed military officers and others in plain clothes were at the berth where the ship docked.

"The ship is being inspected by experts before the clearing agent does his job and hands over the weapons to us. The weapons belong to the Kenyan military," said military spokesman Bogita Ongeri.

The Maersk cargo vessel, which was detained by the Angolan Government for carrying Kenyan Military Cargo, docks at the port of Mombasa Monday. [PHOTO: MAARUFU MOHAMED/STANDARD]

Earlier reports attributed to Angolan media claimed that the master of the vessel had failed to declare the existence of containerised cargo, which had the arms inside.

The ship, manned by a crew of 23 sailors, had off-loaded relief food that included soya beans while in the Angolan port.

Out of these, there are 20 US mariners and three Polish maintenance crew.

The ship was detained by Angolan authorities for two weeks, after guns, ammunition and rockets belonging to Kenya were found hidden underneath the soya, which the ship’s officers had declared it was carrying for a South African non-governmental organisation.

True owners

The discovery drew questions on who the true owners of the weapons are, given that the Kenya military manufactures its own bullets locally.

The situation forced the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations to summon Defence Minister Yusuf Haji and Chief General of Staff Gen Jeremiah Kianga, who said the arms belonged to Kenya. They pointed out that the Government had deliberately failed to disclose the cargo while it was still in the high seas.

When The Standard broke the story of the arms on the ship that was detained at the Angolan port of Lobito early last month, Government spokesman Alfred Mutua claimed the ship was carrying four containers of high-caliber bullets for Kenyan forces. He made no mention of the anti-aircraft guns, and appeared to sidestep the question on who owns them.

"It is a normal military procurement, only that the media is making a storm out of it ,’’ he added.

Ongeri said there are about six containers for Kenyan defence forces.He added that despite the existence of a bullet factory in Eldoret, there still exists a provision to procure from outside, depending on requirements.

"The Eldoret plant is largely for smaller arms,’’ Ongeri said.

—Additional reporting by Cyrus Ombati

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