WE PREDICT THAT KENYA WILL ACHIEVE EXCELLENCE IN COAST GUARD OPERATIONS, BUT WE HAVE SOME ADVICE
We recently learned from one of our correspondents that Kenya is planning a Coast Guard.to supplement its Navy. Kenya is critically located near the operating area of the Somali pirate gangs. Kenya has provided an important service to the international effort to curb piracy by opening its respected admiralty court system to the trial of pirates captured by the international navies now patrolling the area. Not many nations were willing to do that and this resulted in the infamous "catch and release" incidents that made the news. Kenya occupies a strategic position on the Indian Ocean and has a large and valuable ocean Exclusive Economic Zone. The formation of the Coast Guard was announced recently when President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke at the launching of the R/V MTAFITI, Kenya's first oceanographic research vessel. President Kenyatta noted in his address that Kenya loses billions of dollars worth of income and tax revenues yearly to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. He noted that money has already been set aside for the future Coast Guard's first patrol vessel which in fact is under construction in India as we write this. President Kenyatta is dedicated to developing the fisheries resources of Kenya and the new oceanographic research vessel is an important part of that effort. Fishery stocks have to be monitored and evaluated before they can be successfully managed for sustained yield. A Coast Guard service is another major step for fisheries management because once seasons and limits are established they have to be enforced but Kenya needs a coast guard for much more given the nearby piracy problem, and other issues of the increasingly busy Indian Ocean.
We hope Kenya will shortly develop an indigenous patrol vessel construction capability able to completely service the needs of her navy and coast guard. However we applaud the choice of India as a supplier for this first vessel. One of the most important pieces of advice that we'd give to India and Kenya is to continue to assist each other and form a close naval/coast guard alliance, work toward inter operations capability. India is the natural guardian of the Indian Ocean and the job becomes more challenging every day. Kenya is likely to grow as a regional maritime participant and is a relatively stable democracy, a good potential ally for democratic India as she seeks to provide security farther and wider in the Indian Ocean Basin. India's excellent navy and coast guard are much closer and have much more in the way of mutual interest than the the much more distant American and British counterparts. But while India can provide a more regular source of training and equipment assistance , India's own naval / coast guard forces may be too large for a real model for Kenya's coast guard organization.
Why not look to Malaysia for an organizational model? Malaysia's naval forces and "coast Guard" or "Maritime Enforcement Agency" are excellent and right sized for a small nation. We could think of no better way to start a new coast guard service in a nation like Kenya than one organized and eventually equipped on the Malaysian model with a close association with India. Thanks to Kenya's independent judiciary handling some of the trial work in the international fight against piracy the nation is building a reputation for competency in admiralty adjudication. With a coast guard coming on line, Kenya may soon be able to join South Africa as a leading maritime light on the African continent. The Indian Ocean isn't the North Atlantic of 2014 lined on all sides with closely cooperative democratic states with formal collective security arrangements. The Indian Ocean is more like the North Atlantic in the late 1930s when war was constantly threatening to break out. But there is hope that the Indian Ocean can avoid the fate of the North Atlantic States of 1939. There is a big anchor of stability to the north called India. Reliable, law abiding and naval competent Australia is to the south east, while the narrow approaches of the South East are guarded by cooperative law abiding Malaysia and Singapore with superbly competent small navies and coast guards. To the south West the South African Navy competently guards the African cape route into the area. If Kenya can join the effort in a few years as another small but competent naval power the Indian Ocean Basin will still be riddled with potential trouble makers but surrounded by calming agents. We wish Kenya the best in this new endeavor.