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Thursday, March 17, 2011

US & Angola clash over Kenya weapons

 The Maersk Constellation, carrying military weapons for Kenya, is being detained in Angola.
A ship carrying military weapons belonging to Kenya is being held in Angola, the US revealed on Tuesday.

A statement from the US State Department did not give details on why the Angolan Government was still holding the ship, Maersk Constellation, even after it had furnished them with details of its cargo. “Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of the crew, including the 20 US citizens on the Maersk Constellation. The status of the personnel on the Maersk Constellation is unclear, and we are actively seeking clarification from Angolan authorities,” the statement said.

The US expressed concerns over the delay, saying it could affect perishable items for humanitarian programmes in Mozambique, Malawi and Rwanda. The ship is carrying about 15 million kilos of maize, soy and beans. “US Embassy officials are in Lobito, Angola, to meet with the 20 US citizens on the ship and provide consular services as needed. This is the embassy team’s third visit to the ship,” the statement said. Last week, Mr Kevin Speers of Maersk Line Ltd attributed the delay to the four containers of ammunition. “We have been engaged with the Angolan authorities to clarify the status of the American crewmen since the beginning of this incident on February 28, and will continue to do so,” he said.

On Monday, Defence minister Yusuf Haji said the arms belonged to Kenya and the government did not disclose the cargo deliberately while it was still in the high seas. On Tuesday, Department of Defence spokesman Bogita Ongeri refused to give a detailed statement because Kenya had not taken charge of the cargo.

The shipping line said on Monday that State Department officials had discussed the delays with Angolan officials. “The meeting was a positive step toward allowing the vessel to continue on its voyage. The Angolan officials shared their concerns regarding perceived discrepancies in the ship’s documentation of four containers of ammunition and stated that they intend to resolve the matter through an administrative procedure against Maersk Line Limited,” the firm said in a statement. It added that Angola was awaiting more documents from Kenya. “Once the administrative process and the requested declaration from the Kenyan Government are complete, the release of the ship will be forthcoming. “Maersk Line Ltd is looking forward to finalising the process to release the crew, vessel and cargo. We will remain fully engaged and will continue to work with Angolan authorities and United States government officials until the ship is under way.”

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