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Consider implications of trying pirates in Kenya



 Kenya Coast Guard soldiers capture a pirate in a mock drill during the handing over ceremony for the 'ship in abox' at Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa on February 24, 2022. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

The prolonged Israeli siege on Gaza has contributed to the reemergence of Houthi rebels in Yemen. There has been a surge in the number of attacks on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, which are blamed on the Houthis.

American and British forces have tried to contain this new threat and as late as Saturday, bombed Houthi hideouts and command centres, resulting in the deaths of at least 16 people. As part of the efforts to deal with the rebels, the European Union has asked the Kenyan government to take up the responsibility of trying to capture Houthi pirates and rebels. The request is understandable for two main reasons; Kenya’s proximity to the Gulf of Aden and its commitment to deal with insurgents in the Horn of Africa.

In October 2011, Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) went into Somalia in pursuit of the Al Shabaab insurgents who had abducted foreign doctors in Mandera County. KDF’s invasion disoriented Al Shabaab and helped stabilise Somalia. However, even though Somalia has a coast along the Gulf of Aden, it lacks the structures and capacity to hold and try captured Houthi pirates.

Before Kenya accepts this new responsibility, it must weigh the gains against potential liabilities to the country. Even with KDF in Somalia, the Al Shabaab staged an attack on the Westgate Mall, Westlands in 2013 that left 71 people dead. In 2015, the Al Shabaab militia attacked Garissa University, leading to the deaths of 148 people. In January 2019, there was an attack on the DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi in which 22 people lost their lives. There have been sporadic attacks in Lamu ever since.

Recently, Kenyan police officers were sent to Haiti against the wishes of many Kenyans due to the risks involved. Parliament must therefore ensure Kenya does not take on more than it can deal with without compromising the security and safety of Kenyans. Kenya must weigh all options before agreeing to take up the responsibility. The government must do the right thing by putting the safety of Kenyans above any other considerations.

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