BY JAMES KANDOYA
At last Tanzania has signed the protocol against piracy which was endorsed by other East African and Indian Ocean littoral states under the condition that European Union construct prisons that meet the required international standards.
Tanzania was the only country that had not signed the protocol despite being one of the affected nations by piracy on the Indian Ocean.
Minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation, Bernard Membe, told The Guardian in a telephone interview recently that Tanzania signed but on conditions.
‚ÄúWe finally signed it some few months ago but on conditions that the EU helps us with the construction of prisons that meet international standards for accommodating the pirates, help Tanzania with training for investigating department and security agencies on how to handle pirate related cases,‚Äù he said.
He said the training will involve officials from Tanzania People Defence Forces (TPDF), the investigation department and court officials including lawyers and translators who will deal with pirate related cases.
Tanzania is unable to handle pirate related case at the moment due to lack of decent prisons and translators among others things. Despite giving conditions to the EU that promulgate for decent prisons, Membe said the government rejected EU condition to have joint patrols with EU security organs on the coast of Indian Ocean.
Membe said prisons that are used to keep the pirates are required to meet international standards, including supply of newspapers, free access to information and availability of air conditioning in their cells something the country‚Äôs prisons do not have.
The minister noted that the duty of patrolling up to 200 nautical miles from the coast of the Indian Ocean remains in the hands of Tanzania People Defence Force (TPDF) adding that such a national security issues cannot be compromised.
To ensure that there is enough security along the coast of Indian Ocean, the government is in the process of procuring a number of helicopters and professional boats. These he said are mainly meant for surveillance by TPDF. However, he could not mention the number of boats for security purposes.
He said now that Tanzania has signed the protocol, it does not want an arrest and release situation.
‚ÄúWe call upon the responsible authorities to arrest the suspect but with enough evidence so as to avoid arrest and release,‚Äù he said.
Recently it was reported that Tanzania was the only country that had not yet signed the protocol against piracy endorsed by the other East African and Indian Ocean littoral states
In February this year, Membe clarified to this paper that Tanzania had yet met international standards set by the European Union, thus the delay.
The country was urged to sign the protocol some two years ago. Under the protocol each country had to ensure that it had prepared to internationally accepted standards the environment to facilitate prosecution of cases, accommodation of the prisoners and investigation departments.
Membe said Tanzania‚Äôs lacked of experience in investigating and handling pirate cases, a new phenomenon in the Indian Ocean, led to the delay in signing the protocol.
He said Tanzania had been conducting training in order to meet the conditions set by the European Union (EU) to be allowed to prosecute pirate related cases because those countries which prosecute pirates must have experts before signing the protocol.
‚ÄúExperience from the Comoros and Seychelles which have handled such cases show that most pirates, especially Somalis tend to use vernacular languages, a situation which requires our country to have special translators,‚Äù Membe explained.
Pirates operating along the coast of East Africa, especially between Somalia and Kenya besides deaths, caused a major disruption to maritime trade, leading to intervention of navies of western powers to clear the sea lanes.