TANZANIA, Mozambique and South Africa on Tuesday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on maritime security, in a move designed to enhance collective efforts in fighting piracy, drug trafficking and other criminal activities in the Indian Ocean.
President Jakaya Kikwete said piracy was adversely affecting the country's trade and economic growth, pointing out some ships had decided to take longer routes to arrive at Tanzanian ports to avoid pirates. "The scourge has caused adverse impacts to our economy as costs of freight and insurance premiums have tremendously gone up due to piracy," said the President at the signing ceremony at the State House in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Kikwete said the MoU would help the three countries deal with piracy in the Indian Ocean, stressing that combating piracy needed collective approach. "I promise that I will do everything I can to assist the army to carry out its duty efficiently to combat the scourge," President Kikwete, who is also the Commander-in-Chief, pledged.
The MoU involves naval forces from the three countries to co-operate in various aspects of maritime security including exchange of information, surveillance, joint military exercises and operations. The Minister for Defence and National Service, Dr Hussein Mwinyi, who signed the MoU with his two counterparts of South Africa and Mozambique, said a total of nine incidents of piracy were reported in the country last year, compared to 29 in 2010.
"The MoU aims at involving our naval forces in the three countries to work together to combat criminal activities in the Indian Ocean," he stated. He said the MoU was a results of an assessment by military experts from the three countries to find out the best way to deal with the criminal activities in the Indian Ocean.
South African Minister for Defence, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu, said piracy had posed great challenges to her country as South Africa largely depends on the sea for trading. She also said the MoU provides another opportunity for her country to cement historical ties with brothers and sisters of Tanzania and Mozambique, who played a great role during the struggle against the criminal apartheid regime.
"This gives us the opportunity to work together with the the people who tremendously supported us during the struggle," said Ms Sisulu. The Minister for National Defence for Mozambique, Mr Felipe Jacinto Nyusi, urged the forces of three countries to provide capacity building to servicemen and women to maintain the operations against criminal activities in the sea.
Mv UTB Ocean was the first ship to be hijacked by pirates along the coast of Tanzania in March 2010. Until December 2010, a total of 29 piracy incidents were reported in the area. Meanwhile, former Dodoma Regional Commissioner, Dr James Nsekela, on Tuesday was yesterday sworn in by President Jakaya Kikwete as the country's new ambassador to Italy.