Port expansions could expose Kenya to more crime

Kenya‘s $ 3.6 billion port master to plan will transform the country’s sea, sea and dry ports over the next 30 years. Modern ports that conform to International Maritime Organization (IMO) codes are attracting a larger maritime market that affects both the Kenyan economy and the region. But with this expansion comes security concerns, especially organized crime and terrorism.

The Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) flagship project is the new Lamu Port, which will require an initial investment of $ 2.1 billion. It is one of the seven mega-infrastructure development projects within the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor Project. That $ 25 billion program is part of Kenya Vision 2030, which aims to transform the country into a middle-income economy.

Lamu Port serves as a transshipment point to other seaport hubs, for example in Djibouti, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Transshipment ports are intermediate stations at which goods are transported from one ship to another in order to transport them to other destinations.

Lamu is near the border with Somalia, where al-Shabaab is a dominant presence. The terrorist group notoriously focuses on government infrastructure, property damage, and mining fear in local communities. This was shown when she attacked the Manda Bay military base in Lamu in January 2020, which killed three American Defense Forces and destroyed US planes and vehicles.

Al-Shabaab works with transnational organized crime groups and participates in organized crime activities to fund their organizational and terrorist campaigns. For example, the group has been reported to smuggle legal goods such as sugar, trade in illegal firearms and participate in human trafficking, including recruitment campaigns in Kenya.

In 2019, Kenya’s government banned trade between Kenya and Somalia through the Kiunga crossing and closed the border with Somalia due to security threats. The measures also aimed to counter the syndicates involved in illegal fishing, human trafficking, contraband and ‘terror Merchants’. Despite government efforts to promote business in Lamu at the Kiunga border point, evidence of organized crime has persisted near the port.

In April 2020 the Kenyan authorities set on fire Twelve tons of dried fish worth US $ 45,000 (KES 5,000,000) were smuggled into Kenya from Somalia. The Kenyan Coast Guard stationed in Lamu burned khat worth US $ 222,000 (KES 25,000,000) that was being directed from Kenya to Somalia.

And although piracy has subsided off the east coast of Africa, “an increase in shipping traffic through the port of Lamu could spark interest in the hijacking of ships – a crime in which al-Shabaab was indirectly involved in the past,” said one maritime man Security expert said anonymously the project of organized crime ENACT.

Local grievances could increase Lamu Port’s vulnerability to infiltration by organized crime and terrorist groups. The historical marginalization of communities and the youngest state Excesses The war on terror, such as extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, has at times targeted people in Lamu. Al-Shabaab takes advantage of such situations to recruit its members from Lamu.

In addition to ties to terrorist groups, Lamu was identified as a drug trafficking in 2018 Hotspot. As a connection to South Sudan and Ethiopia, the port offers the opportunity to expand drug trafficking to markets in northern Kenya and the neighboring East African countries. The port of Lamu and other LAPSSET infrastructure, such as the Juba-Addis Ababa railway line and Isiolo Airport in Kenya, are equally vulnerable to trade in minerals, wildlife and endangered tree species such as teak.

Port security experts told ENACT that port actors and users have set up border management committees that bring together key government agencies. In Lamu, they focus on maritime security issues such as smuggling contraband and the link between human trafficking and terrorism.

the Committees The aim is to provide a coordinated response between the KPA and other parts of the state, including the police, the Kenyan Coast Guard, the Immigration Service and the Kenyan Treasury. The border management committees have also involved the local Lamu communities to improve information gathering and increase public participation in security-related decisions.

However, KPA security chief Tony Kibwana notes that the KPA’s lack of an integrated maritime security policy and strategy is hampering cross-agency responses to organized crime, especially in newer ports like Lamu. The Maritime Transport Plan is currently being developed and would expand the KPA’s collaboration with government agencies such as the Kenyan Coast Guard Service and the Kenyan Navy to address transnational maritime threats offshore.

Safe havens stimulate local, national and regional economies, which benefit both the public and private sectors. Protecting ports against cross-border organized crime is vital and recent developments suggest that Kenya is making progress in securing its maritime space. The country was recently removed from the piracy red list due to its success in fighting piracy piracy Challenges.

An immediate positive consequence of this is lower insurance and security expenses (by millions of dollars annually) for those using Kenya’s ports. This is in line with the goal of the 2018-2047 KPA Master Plan to make Kenya an attractive and competitive hub and destination hub on the East Indian coast of Africa.

Mohamed Daghar, Regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa and Willis Okumu, Senior Researcher, ENACT Project, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Nairobi, and Denis Ombuna Simon, Principal Security Enforcement Officer, Kenya Ports Authority

This article was produced by ENACT. ENACT is funded by European Union (EU). The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author and under no circumstances can it be reflected as the position of the EU.

(This article was first published by ISS Today, a Premium Times syndication partner. We have your permission to republish).

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