Maritime security challenges in Africa are growing rapidly and represent an increasingly central component of the threat matrix facing the continent. Kenya has been struggling to meet these threats because maritime security structures are misaligned with the challenges posed. To address these challenges, Kenyan government through the cabinet approved the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS).
So, what’s the primary duty of the coast guard?
Before the idea was mooted, the maritime security was left largely to Kenya Navy who occasionally worked with other agencies like Kenya Police Service, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Revenue Authority. However, Navies and coast guards play fundamentally different, though complementary, roles. Navies are international operators primarily concerned with national defense. Coastguards, on the other hand, function more as maritime police, preventing crime and promoting public safety. A much larger part of their mission relates to law enforcement, environmental protection, and maritime safety obligations that occur within a nation’s territorial waters.
Rationale for formation of KCGS
The Kenyan coast region has been volatile in the past few years with cases of insecurity that brought tourism in the area to its knees. President Kenyatta first floated the idea of setting up the KCGS in January 2014 citing increased cases of drug trafficking, illegal fishing, piracy and dumping of harmful waste in Kenya’s waters. The last two factors have contributed to the degradation of the quality of the beach thus impacting beach tourism. It is worth noting that tourism is one of the leading foreign income earners in Kenya; indeed, the sector contributes about 27% of foreign exchange which represents 12% of the country’s national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The Kenya Coast also provides a vital contribution to Kenya's economy in more ways than tourism. The port of Mombasa is the gateway for most goods into East Africa and beyond. A thriving business community exists along the coastline.
Towards a more prosperous coastal region
The coastal region contributes considerably to Kenya’s national wealth thanks to its vibrant tourism sector. This is due to the beautiful beaches as well as other myriad tourist attraction sites and activities. However, the ever hanging clouds of security and environmental challenges on the high seas have threatened tourism prospects at the coast. The creation of coast guard service will go a long way in promoting tourism in the coastal region as the security will be beefed up, further. This comes long after the government established tourists’ police unit in a bid to bolster the security of tourists visiting the country. Cases of tourists being kidnapped while surfing on the Indian Ocean or being mugged by narcos shaking them down for cash while walking on the streets will be greatly reduced. In addition to the security, the coast guard will also offer search and rescue services, helping tourists who might be in distress while surfing the high waters. In the end, we will have a safer, secure and conducive environment for both the tourists and locals in the greater coastal region.
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