Kenya's Pirate Propaganda
Saturday, 17 March 2012 | 00:00
In comments to the media following a March 12 joint meeting with the parliamentary committee on Defence and Foreign Relations, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti claimed that piracy off the coast of Somalia had dropped 40% since Kenyan forces entered Somalia last October, with “not... a single case of piracy since then.”
This is not the first time that Kenyan officials have gotten creative with pirate numbers.
In 2009, Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula claimed that pirates had earned $150 million the year prior, a figure roughly five times the reality. His motive for conjuring this number, I can only conjecture, was to draw international attention (and foreign aid dollars) to a problem that Kenya was eminently positioned to combat.
When Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) embarked on his much touted “pirate tour” of Puntland in April 2011, he first stopped over in Kenya to meet with government officials. The Kenyans’ reputations must have preceded them, because Senator Kirk knew where to go for his made up numbers: right to Wetangula, who informed him that that 30% of ransom money (more than $50 million, apparently) was "funneled to the East African Al Qaeda/Al Shabaab Islamic terrorist groups."
After that, actually going to Somalia was just a formality. (The subsequent hysterical report produced by Kirk, which drummed up pirate-Shabaab links, cited the Kenyan government figure as its only hard evidence).
This latest claim lacks even a semblance of logic to back up the fabricated numbers. As noted above, Saitoti alleged a drop in piracy of 40%, and at the same time a complete cessation in hijackings since the Kenyan invasion began (though it is possible that Saitoti was referring only to Kenya's Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 nautical miles from the coast).
a) That’s not true. A UAE-owned tanker, the Royal Grace, was hijacked just last week, and there have been many others. b) If it were true, wouldn’t a drop to zero incidents from anything be a decrease of, well, 100%?
Second, it makes no sense. Somali piracy is localized in the north of the country, and it seems doubtful that Kenya’s ragtag patrol boats (apologies, “navy”) splashing around Ras Kamboni are going to cause many in the Harardheere cabal to lose any sleep.
Nor is this the first time that the Kenyan government has lied to its people about the merits of Operation Linda Nchi, the invasion of Somalia. In a January assessment of Linda Nchi, Somalia Report highlighted the KDF's absurdly understated casualty figures, which claimed at the time to have sustained 11 killed in the course of dispatching over 700 al-Shabaab fighters. Such dissimulation, as I wrote in the article, cheapens the sacrifice of the substantially larger number of Kenyan soldiers who have died fighting for their country.
I am continually stunned by how such statements get published as prima facie news, as if the fact that someone is being quoted relieves the reporter of his or her duty to analyze the contents of the quote. Granted, most journalists shy away from math as a point of pride, but it doesn’t require a quadratic analysis—just a little common sense.
Source: Neptune Maritime Security