Kenya lauded for trying pirates

Saturday February 20 2010

By KEVIN J KELLEY in New York

Kenya has taken “a step of great responsibility” by agreeing to prosecute suspected pirates, a US State Department official said on Thursday.

The comments by Mr Tom Countryman, the principal deputy assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, are among the few positive expressions that the US has voiced recently in regard to Kenyan government actions.

American diplomats have repeatedly criticised Kenya’s response to corruption as well as its handling of cases related to the violence of 2008.

The Obama administration has publicly barred two high-ranking Kenyan officials from entering the United States because of alleged misdeeds.

Mr Countryman struck a different note at a press briefing in Washington marking one year since the United States and its allies began jointly combating piracy in East African waters.

“We recognise, in particular, that Kenya has stepped forward and offered itself as a site for the prosecution of suspected pirates,” he said.

Nearly 300 Somalis suspected of piracy have been captured in the past year, with most having been turned over to Kenya, the US official noted.

Attacks by pirates in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden increased again last year, despite the efforts of the United States, Kenya and 45 other countries.