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African Leaders Meet to Address Maritime Insecurity

  • Peter Clottey

Heads of state and government in West and Central African regions plan to meet Monday and Tuesday for an extraordinary summit in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé.

Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the president of the Economic Community of West African States says the objective of the conference is to enable the leaders to come up with strategies to resolve increasing maritime insecurity along the coast of the two regions.

“The objective is to agree on a common strategy to combat this maritime insecurity,” continued Ouedraogo, “I believe that this will enable us coordinate our action in order to be more efficient in combating this maritime piracy.”

The conference is organized by ECOWAS, the Economic Community of Central African State, and the Commission of the Gulf of Guinea.

“There would be a code of conduct for all countries involved in this summit, and there would also be a cooperation agreement between ECOWAS, ECCAS and [the] Commission of the gulf of Guinea, for us to coordinate our action,” said Ouedraogo.

A recent report shows a sharp rise in piracy off the Gulf of Guinea. Data from the International Maritime Bureau, says about 1,000 seafarers and fishermen were attacked by pirates armed with guns or knives in the Gulf of Guinea last year.

After expressing concern about the piracy problem in the regions, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that appealed to leaders in both ECOWAS and ECCAS to consider a solution to combat the growing maritime insecurity.

Ouedraogo says both regional blocs are committed to ending the maritime menace after reports cited more than 30 piracy attacks off the western part of the Gulf of Guinea since the beginning of this year.

“This is becoming a major threat to peace and security in our region, and I believe that as soon as the summit is concluded, I’m sure that the political declaration and the cooperation agreement that would be signed will immediately enter into force, and then we will start consulting among ourselves to combat this phenomenon,” said Ouedraogo.

Some observers have expressed skepticism about the implementation of the agreement as well as recommendations by the leaders to combat the piracy menace. Ouedraogo disagreed.

“I believe that this time things are different because most of the countries are already implementing actions plans to combat this phenomenon,” continued Ouedraogo, “the idea will be to coordinate these various activities in order to allow them to be more efficient. This summit will allow us to enhance the national and regional strategies already existing in order to give more impetus to our effort to combat this piracy.”

Analysts say the growing piracy problem could discourage investment. But, Ouedraogo said the regional blocs and international partners have demonstrated commitment to end the piracy menace.

“I can assure businesses that this battle is not only for ECCAS and ECOWAS, all our partners are involved in this commitment. We are going to act jointly with all our partners, the European Community, our strategic partners like the USA, UK and France and other Western countries will be mobilized to succeed in this battle against insecurity,” said Ouedraogo.