African lead­ers tackle piracy, il­le­gal fish­ing at Lome sum­mit

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Stem­ming the as­tro­nom­i­cal losses caused by crime in the oceans sur­round­ing Africa is the fo­cus of a ma­jor con­ti­nen­tal sum­mit yes­ter­day in the To­golese cap­i­tal, Lome. “Over re­cent decades, the ac­cu­mu­lated rev­enue losses re­sult­ing di­rectly from il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in the African mar­itime sec­tor add up to hun­dreds of bil­lions of US dol­lars, with­out count­ing the loss of hu­man lives,” the African Union (AU) said in an online state­ment about its Pro­tect Our Oceans meet­ing.

Up to 30 African heads of state and govern­ment are ex­pected to at­tend the gath­er­ing, whose full ti­tle is the AU Ex­tra­or­di­nary Sum­mit on Mar­itime Se­cu­rity and Safety and De­vel­op­ment in Africa. The longterm aim, ac­cord­ing to the AU, is to “make mar­itime space the key driver of Africa’s eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment”. While il­le­gal fish­ing, smug­gling, pol­lu­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment are up for dis­cus­sion, there is one par­tic­u­lar is­sue set to take cen­tre stage.

“Piracy comes first,” Togo’s For­eign Min­is­ter Robert Dussey told AFP. “A few years ago, it was mostly ship­ping in the Gulf of Aden, off So­ma­lia, that fell vic­tim to pi­rates. Now it’s in the Gulf of Guinea. “Be­tween 2005 and the present, we have suf­fered more than 205 at­tacks. Pi­rates give pri­or­ity to raids on oil tankers but they also tar­get mer­chant ship­ping,” he ex­plained. Oil-rich Nige­ria is at the heart of the prob­lem, with many piracy at­tacks tak­ing place off its coast or in the wa­ters of neigh­bour­ing states. Per­pe­tra­tors are of­ten off­shoots of armed in­sur­gents from the Niger delta, home to the con­ti­nent’s largest oil re­serves.

Poor co­op­er­a­tion

That the bil­lions gen­er­ated from these re­serves has done lit­tle to im­prove the lives of most Nige­ri­ans has been a key driver of vi­o­lence in the delta and off­shore. Piracy has pro­lif­er­ated partly be­cause of a chronic lack of co­op­er­a­tion and in­for­ma­tion­shar­ing be­tween African coun­tries, al­though steps to remedy this dis­con­nect have al­ready been taken at mar­itime se­cu­rity meet­ings in Cameroon in 2013 and in the Sey­chelles last year.

Build­ing on those two gath­er­ings, the hope is that lead­ers in Lome will adopt a bind­ing, con­ti­nent-wide char­ter on mar­itime se­cu­rity that as well as piracy en­com­passes the other is­sues on the sum­mit’s agenda. “Most African coun­tries that have a coast­line are vic­tims of one of these prob­lems, which is why it’s so im­por­tant for African lead­ers to sit down and try to find so­lu­tions,” said Dussey. Largescale il­le­gal fish­ing also helps drive piracy as it de­pletes stocks, re­duc­ing the le­git­i­mate eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties of coastal com­mu­ni­ties.

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