YAOUNDE, CAMEROON —
More than two dozen leaders from West and Central Africa have wrapped up a two-day summit in Cameroon resolving to combat the scourge of piracy in their region.
Leaders at this special summit say that oil theft, sea piracy, pipeline vandalism, illegal drug and arms trafficking cost West and Central Africa more than $1.2 billion a year.
But piracy topped the agenda at the summit in Cameroon's capital this week. Pirates have attacked dozens of ships in the Gulf of Guinea this year, including at least 22 in Nigeria alone.
Cameroon President Paul Biya said he and his regional counterparts believe they must now fight piracy energetically to salvage their economies.
He said, "We cannot abandon our maritime space to lawless individuals and groups who act as predators. We shall not allow those pirates to operate on our waters."
Earlier this month, the International Maritime Bureau confirmed that while piracy attacks declined significantly in 2012, their success rate was up - indicating more sophisticated tactics.
And it said the Gulf of Guinea is now more dangerous for shipping than the waters than off the coast of Somalia.
Countries on or near the Gulf provide about 40 percent of Europe's oil needs and nearly 30 percent of the fuel used in the United States.
Some of it is from landlocked countries like Chad. The president of Chad, Idriss Deby, said he could not be indifferent to the piracy threat because his country’s economy has also been touched.
He said, "Security in the Gulf of Guinea does not concern only coastal countries but landlocked countries like Chad - whose imports and exports depend largely on the Gulf of Guinea. He called on regional countries to create a standby force."
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara went further, calling for international action to battle a global security threat.
He asked the international community to be firm in the Gulf of Guinea as they have been firm in the Gulf of Aden - where the presence of international naval forces has led to a drastic reduction in maritime piracy.
The 25 heads of state and government leaders ended the Yaounde summit by signing agreements to contribute forces and the necessary human and financial resources that will help fight piracy. They also prepared what they called a “code of conduct” - outlining what each country has to contribute within three years.