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War is Boring: Kenya Allegedly Funneling Arms to Volatile South Sudan

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The ceremony last Feb. 12 at the commercial seaport in Mombasa, Kenya, was a surprising one. When the Ukrainian-owned merchant ship Faina sailed into port, five months after its capture by Somali pirates and a week after its release, the Kenyan government rolled out the red carpet. Civilian officials and military officers lined the pier, and armed guards patrolled, as Faina's weary seafarers debarked. There were speeches and reluctant testimonies by Faina's senior crew before the strange gathering came to a halting end. Hundreds of vessels had been seized by Somali pirates over the previous decade, and their releases had rarely prompted an official celebration such as this.

The ceremony might have been inspired by the intensive media coverage that had surrounded the Faina's capture and the subsequent stand-off, pitting U.S. Navy warships against the merchant ship's ragtag captors. Faina's captain died of natural causes in the early days of the crisis. Ultimately, the vessel's owners paid a $3.2 million ransom, which itself is not unusual. Faina had stood out, among captured vessels, owing to her cargo: 33 Soviet-designed T-72 main battle tanks, plus other arms and ammunition -- all of murky provenance and ownership. To cynical observers, the June ceremony was seen as an opportunity for Nairobi to voice its official position regarding the weapons' origins and destination. ...

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