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Why Kenya has been chosen to help EU deal with dangerous rebels in Yemen

Kenya agrees to help European Union forces deal with Yemen's Houthi rebels

Operation ATALANTA conducted the joint multi-agency exercise called Usalama Bahirini for the first time with Kenya with the presence of the Kenyan Navy and the Kenyan Coast Guard Service.

Kenya has pledged its support to the European Union in addressing maritime crime in the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, and Red Sea, regions.

The regions are increasingly threatened by pirate activity and attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

This cooperation comes as the EU, which maintains a naval force in these waters, seeks to mitigate the security threats disrupting international trade routes.

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The EU's call for assistance is a response to escalating threats to shipping in these strategic maritime corridors.

Pirate attacks and Houthi rebel activities have significantly impacted the safe passage of vessels, prompting the EU to seek regional partnerships to bolster security efforts.

Henriette Geiger, the EU Ambassador to Kenya, highlighted that the EU is working closely with Kenya to manage and prosecute maritime crime suspects apprehended in the region's waters.

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She noted that Kenya would formalise a legal agreement with the EU, allowing Operation Atalanta, the EU's anti-piracy mission, to transfer seized weapons and suspected traffickers to Kenya for prosecution.

"Seychelles has already agreed to a similar arrangement but, as a small island nation, it cannot handle the burden alone," Geiger stated.

Operation Atalanta, the EU's military initiative in the Horn of Africa, is primarily focused on countering piracy.

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However, the operation faces challenges in prosecuting suspects due to jurisdictional constraints, necessitating collaboration with countries like Kenya that can prosecute these individuals.

Isaiah Nakoru, head of Kenya’s Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs, reaffirmed Kenya’s readiness to contribute to regional security and ensure the free movement of goods and people.

"We must work together to achieve sustainable security and address all activities that threaten livelihoods and movement," Nakoru said.

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Kenya has faced scrutiny over its ability to prosecute maritime crime suspects whose alleged offenses occur far from its shores.

However, a 2012 ruling by a Kenyan court confirmed the country's jurisdiction to try Somali pirates operating in international waters.

Despite this, maritime security consultant Andrew Mwangura pointed out ongoing legal challenges, emphasising the need to address root causes like illegal fishing in East African waters.

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The issue of piracy remains a significant concern, with recent attacks off Somalia's coast renewing fears of a resurgence.

The early 2010s saw Somali pirates hijacking numerous ships for ransom.

In a recent incident, the EU naval force transferred six suspected pirates from Somalia to the Seychelles for trial, and last Friday, the EU force successfully freed a merchant ship and its 17 crew members from pirate control.

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