European Union managing director for African Affairs Nick Westcott has held discussions with Tanzanian top government officials on the possibility of inking a deal to have detained pirates transferred for trial in their countries of origin.
Westcott told The Guardian in an interview that the EU is due to launch maritime security capacity building programme in the East African Community (EAC) as an initiative to protect its territorial waters against pirates.
“We are holding discussions with a number of African countries including Tanzania that have been affected by piracy,” Westcott said.
The MD stressed that the EU has put more priority in East African countries where incidences of piracy have been common and there are weaknesses in dealing with the cases legally.
“We need to do a situational analysis first before launching the initiative…if it is training we can recruit people to work on the cases,” he said remaining reluctant to divulge the actual dates the initiative will be launched.
Westcott pointed out that the EU is prepared to ensure piracy is put under check in the Indian Ocean.
The managing director said regarding the pact that it will be issuing directions on how to handle pirates including transferring of detained pirates to their mother countries and save sentences while there.
“Contrary to conventional practices whereby a captured pirate can be tried anywhere, we have also to consider the need to let detained pirates be imprisoned in their countries of origin,” he said.
Westcott applauded efforts made by the East African countries in the fight against piracy, saying the situation has improved dramatically and the rate of attacks on ships has been reduced.
Last week the governments of Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa signed a tripartite pact to strengthen maritime security in Indian Ocean and fight piracy.
The agreement was signed by Tanzania Defence and National Service minister Dr Hussein Mwinyi, South African Defence minister Lindiwe Sisulu, and Mozambican National Defence minister Filipe Jacinto Nyussi who were witnessed by President Jakaya Kikwete.
Speaking at the event President Kikwete promised to assist the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces in taking part in the joint efforts course.
“We are going to take all measures to keep our sea safe because more than 90 percent of our trade use the ocean route….At first we thought that the problem was confined only to the Horn of Africa, but now it has extended to the Southern part of the Indian Ocean,” President Kikwete said.
For his part, Defence and National Service minister Dr Hussein Mwinyi said the aim of the MoU is to strengthen cooperation between armed forces of the three countries in carrying out the war against piracy.
“Maritime piracy is becoming a big security concern and if not thoroughly addressed it might have larger negative impacts in social, political and economic areas,” Dr Mwinyi said.
Meanwhile Westcott has cautioned against misuse of aid from the EU pointing out that the Union will now be dishing out more money to support those countries that use the funds well.
The EU has spent more than Euro 130m in Tanzania for various development projects, he revealed.