UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kenya’s foreign minister said Saturday the millions being spent to fight pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia should be spent instead on helping the country become a functioning state.

Moses Wetangula said in an interview with The Associated Press that Uganda has offered troops to expand the African Union force in Somalia from 7,100 to 20,000 to support the restoration of law and order.

But he said that nobody is stepping up to help with much needed money and equipment. “Piracy is not born at sea. It’s born on land. And if you are able to patrol and protect your coastline, it’s unlikely that pirates will find a way to the high seas to cause the menace,” Wetangula said. “Instead, what are we seeing? 52 warships patrolling … the waters of the Indian Ocean, but piracy is still going on.”

Wetangula said the flotilla should be disbanded and the money should be used instead to help Somalia “become a state.” He warned that neglecting Somalia – which has long been run by warlords – amid increasing attacks from militants and Jihadists trying to overthrow the weak U.N.-backed transitional government “may end up being a tragedy that would vibrate far and wide.”

The Kenyan minister said he has met with U.S. officials on numerous occasions, including talks on Friday with Johnnie Carson, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa. Many other African leaders and ministers have also pressed for U.S. equipment and funds for an expanded force in Somalia. “I think it’s not the reaction that is lacking” because that’s “always very positive,” Wetangula said. “It’s the action that is lacking.”

Carson said Friday the Obama administration plans to strengthen ties with two breakaway republics in northern Somalia to blunt the threat from al-Shabab Islamic extremists, and will provide more aid to the transitional government, but he didn’t elaborate.

 

EdithM.Lederer

AssociatedPressWriter