Saturday, February 14, 2009

Arms ship's full cargo revealed

Army officers guarding the arms ship on Friday, a day after it arrived at the port of Mombasa. Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU

Army officers guarding the arms ship on Friday, a day after it arrived at the port of Mombasa. Photo/GIDEON MAUNDU 

By DAVID OKWEMBAH

Details of the cargo on the ship which has been held by pirates in the Somali waters until last week can now be revealed.

The bill of lading and manifest obtained by Nation show that the ship named Mv Faina also had more than 812 tonnes of ammunition besides 33 T-72 tanks from Ukraine.

Pirates had captured the ship, which docked in Mombasa on Thursday afternoon, for more than four months.

With the Chief of General Staff Gen Jeremiah Kianga emphatically laying claim to the arms aboard the ship, questions persist as to why Kenya is arming itself.

The country has never gone to war with its neighbours except for the Shifta war in the 1960s after a threat by leaders from the North Eastern province to secede to Somalia was met with force.

The 33 tanks from Ukraine now bring Kenya’s tanks to more than 200, including an estimated 100 purchased in 2007.

Prior to purchasing the Ukrainian tanks, Kenya, which is a former colony of the British and an ally of the United States, used 76 British-manufactured Vickers Mk3 tanks.

A retired military officer told Nation that while the T-72 tanks are lighter, easier to maintain and operate, they are not as efficient as the Vickers.

Other weapons on the ship include;

• unpacked spare parts for the T-72 tanks

• ZPU-4-Soviet-built anti-aircraft gun mounted on four-wheel carriage

• RPG7V-Rocket propelled grenades (RPGs)

• Spare parts for the RPGs

• BM21 on Ural Wheelbase-a type of heavy truck mounted with multiple-launch rocket system, and

• 812 tonnes of 125 mm rounds of ammunition

Sources at the customs office in Mombasa told Nation that the cargo on the ship was cleared as soon as it docked on Thursday afternoon.

The source, who did not wish to be named talking about official matters, said the documentation process to clear the cargo began last Monday.

To tank battalions

The entire cargo on MV Faina was said to have been declared as the property of Kenya’s Department of Defense (DoD).

The cargo was thus cleared using the Customs regime code C4 which is reserved for goods destined for Kenya.

Goods destined for transit are cleared under the Customs regime code T8 while those destined for warehouses are cleared under the W7 code.

Military spokesman Bogita Ongeri said the tanks will be deployed to tank battalions in the country. He defended the buying of the 33 tanks together with those bought in 2007.

“It’s for deterrence and training.We don’t just buy arms for war, we buy them to train for any eventuality,” said Mr Ongeri.

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