KENYA: Detectives probing the mystery of the ship seized at the port of Mombasa by Kenyan soldiers expanded their scope Wednesday after obtaining fresh reports indicating that the weapons on board could have been heading for South Sudan.
A clearing agent for South Sudan based at the Mombasa port is believed to have provided crucial intelligence regarding the deadly cargo aboard the ship that docked at the port with assorted weapons and suspected drugs on Friday.
Kenya Defence Forces soldiers raided the port the same night, acting on a tip-off that the ship was carrying weapons and drugs.
South Sudan has been monitoring the movement of all arms en route to the country after its government leaders rejected the Compromise Peace deal that would have put Juba under the control of UN forces.
ANALYSIS UNDER WAY
Earlier reports indicated the weapons aboard the vessel, MV Hoegh Transporter, were part of a UN consignment. The ship, registered in Singapore, had sailed from Norway before docking in Mumbai, where it was loaded with the weapons.
Police Spokesman Charles Owino on Tuesday said that the 34 American-made firearms — including general purpose machine guns, and nine M-16 rifles — were found in the ship alongside a white powder, which has been sent to the Government Chemist for analysis.
It was not clear whether the powder was a narcotic drug.
Intelligence sources said the weapons might have been part of a consignment that was to be taken to Juba as the UN forces plan to take control of the capital city.
The seizure of the weapons has been a major concern for South Sudan. President Salva Kiir has refused to travel to New York for the UN General Assembly ostensibly because rebel leader and former Vice-President Riek Machar had also been invited.
Instead, he sent Vice President James Wani Igga.
The meeting, hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was meant to, among other things, strengthen the ongoing peace process in South Sudan.
President Kiir has in the past accused both the UN and the US of supporting the rebels.
He has stationed 5,000 soldiers in barracks within Juba. The soldiers are backed by 3,000 police officers.
Under the peace deal, the UN unveiled a plan to remove South Sudanese soldiers from Juba and put UN forces in control of a radius of 25 kilometres from the city for the next 30 months, a move that President Kiir rejected.
A NEW TWIST
Kenyan authorities maintain that the UN had not declared any of the weapons. The manifest indicated that UN military trucks from India were to pass through the Mombasa port on transit to Congo through Uganda.
The trucks were to be supplied to the Indian UN peacekeeping contingent in the DR Congo. However, the matter has taken a new twist amid claims by Kenyan security officers that the weapons and trucks were headed to South Sudan.
Two years ago, South Sudan appointed Panda Clearing and Forwarding Company (PCFC) to exclusively handle, clear and monitor all cargo destined for the Government of South Sudan in Mombasa.
A source, on Wednesday, told the Daily Nation that it was indeed PCFC, which claimed that the weapons were destined for Juba, not Congo.
The South Sudan Chief of Staff, Mr Paul Malong Awan, is also believed to have travelled to Nairobi over the matter but flew back to Juba on Tuesday night.
The UN had unsuccessfully issued sanctions against Mr Malong and a former SPLA commander, Mr Johnson Olony, who joined rebel forces in March.
The UN has had peacekeeping operations in DRC since 2010 when its Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco) took over a previous UN peacekeeping mission.
On March 28 last year, Security Council Resolution 2147 extended the authorisation until March this year and Resolution 2211 again extended the mission to March next year.
The current strength of the mission is 19,815 military personnel with 760 observers and staff officers and 391 police personnel, among others.
Their mandate includes protecting civilians, particularly women and children and supporting the implementation of ceasefire agreements.