Days after President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Kenya Coast Guard Service to boost maritime security and protect the country’s resources like fish and oil, Kenya has signed a deal with six countries that border the Indian Ocean.
Speaking on Wednesday during the sidelines of the Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Cabinet Secretary for Defence, Raychelle Omamo, said the agreement signed on Monday would strengthen maritime security in the vast ocean prone to movement of narcotics and contraband goods as well as illegal fishing.
“Yesterday, we joined the group of nations within the Western Indian Ocean who are interested in sharing information on their maritime domain,” Ms Omamo said.
The countries — France, Madagascar, Seychelles and Djibouti have aged to share intelligence in fighting illegal trade days going forward.
Somalia and Tanzania — have agreed to the deal but are yet to sign the security pact.
Ms. Omamo added Tanzania and Somalia are expected to sign the deal that is critical to improving the Kenya’s and regional surveillance on its territorial waters.
Kenya loses about 10 billion shillings ($97 million) a year to foreign boats fishing without permission. Something which has clearly irked the government which has now vowed to use the coast guard to crack down on drug, people and arms smuggling along coast.
Until the launch of the coastguard, Kenya’s navy has been responsible for maritime security but experts said it was overstretched.
According to experts, only half a dozen African countries have their own coastguard.
About two million Kenyans depend on fishing but dwindling stocks in nearshore waters and a slump in tourism due to insecurity have worsened poverty along its palm-fringed coast, according to the World Bank.
The situation was especially bad in 2010 when pirate attacks launched from Kenya’s northern neighbour, Somalia, were a major security issue until 2012 when ships tightened security and stayed further away from the coast.