Friday, 3 October 2008

Who really owns the hijacked battle tanks?

Doubts grew on Wednesday over official claims that the battle tanks hijacked by Somali pirates belonged to Kenya.

The authenticity of shipping documents presented by the Government to prove Kenya's ownership was called into question and investigations showed the cargo might in fact have been destined for South Sudan, as the US Navy has claimed all along.

Impeccable sources in Kenya's military confided that the tanks and other arms including anti-aircraft guns and rocket propelled grenades were going to Mombasa only to be off-loaded and sent on to Juba, the South Sudan capital.

The seizure of the equipment, the source said, had put the Kenya Government in an awkward position because it was seen to be in breach of a UN embargo on sale of arms to Sudan.

Government spokesman Alfred Mutua declined to comment further when contacted on Wednesday, except to state: "There is nothing new, and if anything we will post it on our website."

He added that he had not been given the latest information on the standoff between the pirates and the owners of the Ukrainian ship MV Faina, and refused to revisit the question of ownership of the 33 Russian-made T-72 tanks and other military hardware on board.

Dr Mutua, in an attempt to show the cargo belonged to Kenya, released on Monday evening photocopies of a bill of lading and a letter from the Ukrainian exporter about the seizure.

Efforts to establish the authenticity of the bill and the letter, allegedly received from Ukrainian state-owned arms dealer Ukrinmash appealing to the Kenyan government to "assume indispensable measures" to secure the hijacked ship and its cargo, were unsuccessful.

The only indication that the goods were Kenyan was a reference in the letter allegedly from a Ukrainian firm that quotes four invisible contracts dated between 2006 and 2008.

On the bill of lading, the consignee is indicated as Ministry of Defence and the owner as Waterlux AG. The Waterlux AG website shows that it is the owner of the vessel MV Faina, the hijacked ship.

The Nation sent questions to the Ukrinmash website address but none of them has been answered.

It also emerged that Kenya might have been sucked into an arms stockpiling contest between the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the South Sudan administration based in Juba.

Source: 03 October 2008 report by Dominic Wabala, Citizen Correspondent, Nairobi - Who really owns the hijacked battle tanks?

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