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Omamo appeals for more resources to improve maritime security

By STELLA CHERONO
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The lack of security in the maritime domain will not allow for the development of the blue economy which is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “Big Four” deliverables he unveiled during his Jamhuri Day address.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo has said resources must be deployed to improve maritime surveillance and response capabilities to fight the security threats which include piracy and armed robbery at sea, maritime terrorism, illicit trade in crude oil, arms and drugs and human trafficking.

“Brave and innovative steps must be taken to surmount these hurdles because unsecured ocean territories constitute ungoverned spaces in which criminals, insurgents and terrorists can operate with impunity,” Ms Omamo said.

She said this during a forum meant to interrogate and provide perspectives into how maritime security threats and challenges can be countered through collaboration.

SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT

Ms Omamo said that there is a strong correlation between peace, security and development of Africa’s maritime domain.

Kenya moved the exploitation of the blue economy to the front burner with the creation of the State department dedicated to shipping and maritime affairs, the establishment of the blue economy committee and the formulation of the Kenyan Coast Guard Bill to provide the legal and regulatory architecture for the creation of a viable maritime enforcement force to superintend territorial waters.

The exploitation of the blue economy is among president Uhuru Kenyatta’s main pillars meant to improve the economy and food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare.

But the pillar which covers all the resources in the expansive coastline and inland lakes has suffered from multiple problems, including insecurity, illegal and unregulated fishing by foreign trawlers, smuggling of contraband goods, degradation of marine ecosystems through discharge of oil, toxic wastes dumping, illegal sand harvesting and the destruction of coral reefs and coastal forests.

MARITIME INFRASTRUCTURE

Speaking during the function held at the Kenya Defence Forces headquarters, Ms Omamo said that resources must be deployed to construct maritime infrastructure and vessels, generate and support new industries, improve maritime surveillance and response capabilities and undertake scientific research and awareness.

She urged African coastal states to ratify and implement in a coordinated manner, the Africa Integrated Maritime Stategy, the African Charter on Maritime Security and the Lome Charter which focuses on safety and development in Africa.

“The multilateral approach is crucial for the advancement of maritime security in Africa because the scarcity of financial resources and deep capacity gaps require the sharing of intelligence, assets, facilities and skills both at national and regional levels.

INTERNATIONAL PARTNERSHIPS

“International partnerships have borne fruits in markedly reducing the threat of piracy in the western Indian Ocean,” the CS said at the event which also incorporated an ambassadors’ roundtable.

At an interview, Chief of Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe said economic activities associated with Kenya’s coastline contribute Sh178 million to the GDP annually, yet it has the potential to contribute in excess of Sh430 billion over the same period.

“This cannot be achieved without security and that is why the Kenya Navy is at the centre of providing security in the over 13,000 Sq. Km. territorial waters,” Gen Mwathethe said, adding that maritime security is an integral part of national security.

Kenya’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) measures over 142,000 square kilometres with a 400 kilometres of rich coastline.

It also has a share of the second largest fresh water lake in the world.