It has now been nearly two weeks since pirates seized a cargo of Ukrainian military equipment off the Somali coast. The cargo, which included 33 T-72 battle tanks, was ostensibly bound for Kenya.
Just days after their capture, however, the US navy said it believed that the arms were actually bound for South Sudan. Kenya denied the charge, insisting the equipment was for their own military. If it were confirmed that the Kenyan government was actually helping to funnel weapons to the South Sudan government, it would not only be a major embarrassment for one of America’s closest allies in Africa, but would jeopardize the fragile peace deal between South Sudan and the Sudanese government, which ended a 21 year long civil war which killed millions of people.
Now, that accusation appears to be a reality. The BBC has obtained a copy of the freight manifest for the ship which indicate the cargo was bound for GOSS, the common acronym for Government of South Sudan. The GOSS has publicly denied the accusation.
The Somali pirates insist their only motivation was money and that they had no plans to funnel the weaponry to Somali insurgents. They reportedly have been in negotiations with the Ukrainian company that owns the vessel, and the pirates’ spokesman says they are demanding a $20 million ransom. The ship is surrounded by US warships and a Russian frigate is also reportedly approaching, though the pirates appear as yet undeterred from their demands.