For two days – June 24th and 25th 2013 “ Palaise de Congres” Yaoundé Cameroon was host to a summit on maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea. It was a gathering of Heads of State, Representatives of Governments, Regional and International Organizations, heads of multinationals, local and international experts on maritime and security.
In attendance were about 14 Heads of State of the Regional blocs of Central Africa economic Community, Economic Community of West African States and the Gulf of Guinea Commission. Central theme of this summit is devising a Regional security strategy in the Gulf of Guinea. Focus is on having a united front to counter activities of pirates and other criminals in the Gulf of Guinea – with objective to strengthen economic and commerce, and attract foreign investments.
Literally, Gulf connotes a large deep stretch of sea partly enclosed by land. The origin of the name Guinea is thought to be an area in the Region, though with disputed specifics. The name is said to apply to south coast of West Africa north of the Gulf of Guinea, which became known as "Upper Guinea", and the west coast of Southern Africa to the east, which became known as "Lower Guinea”. The name "Guinea" also is still attached to the names of three countries in Africa: Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Equatorial Guinea.
The Gulf of Guinea therefore is the north easternmost part of the tropical Atlantic Ocean between Cape Lopez in Gabon north, and west to Cape Palmas in Liberia. The intersection of the Equator and Prime Meridian (zero degrees latitude and longitude) is in the gulf. Among the many rivers that drain into the Gulf of Guinea are the Niger and the Volta. The coastline on the gulf includes the Bight of Benin and the Bight of Bonny .Among the Countries along the Gulf of Guinea coastline are : Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Cost, Congo Brazzaville, Liberia, Nigeria, Sao-Tome & Principe, etc
The Gulf of Guinea is blessed with huge resource potentials. It’s home to about 270 million people; with very rich biodiversity – 650 million square meters of dense forest. About 100 million barrels of oil reserve and a million tons of fish reserve. It has about 70% of petrol in Africa. According to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, there is an interest shifting from the Persian Gulf in the Middle East to the Gulf of Guinea because it is a future Eldorado for oil production. – expected to produce upto 50% of world’s oil. Europe and America gets 40% and 30% respectively of its oil from here.
This huge potential however, has been under immense threat by diverse criminal activities – sea pirates, illegal oil bunkering, illegal fishing, drugs business and kidnapping. According to expert reports / analysis, varying degree of criminal incidents occurred in this area at different times between 2010 and 2012. For instance, 42 criminal incidents occurred in 2010, 36 in 2001 and 39 in 2012. Africa here loses more than 100 million USD in illegal fishing and more than 100 billion USD in illegal bunkering. This is menacing enough to attract growing regional and international concern.
Some pundits believed that the Yaoundé summit is a success. Their consideration here is the level of organization and attendance – especially from Heads of State of Countries within the Gulf of Guinea; and the final resolutions adopted. Among the resolutions adopted are:
- Financing mechanism for policies to depend on the good will of participating states.
- The States have 3 years to implement the decisions reached at the summit.
There are inherent lopholes in this two resolutions. An in-depth of the latter implies participating States have 3 years to consult with their internal legislations for ratification. The issue here is that 3 years is so long a time to ratify resolutions. This implies that until a process of internal legislation is concluded or carried out within this period, a State or States are not committed to implement decisions. This is also a possible outcome in the event of absolute refusal by any internal legislation of States. For an issue as serious as security, giving such gap raises the question of commitment and performance on the part of concerned States.
A shorter period of ratification - say between three to six months is a better possibility. Certainly experts must have considered the peculiarities of States internal regulations in coming up with the 3 years period. However, looking at the huge loses and danger posed by criminal activities in this Region, a faster legislation and implementation process is not a bad sacrifice to make.
On the other hand, to depend on States goodwill is not a reliable financing mechanism for an issue as serious security in the Gulf of Guinea. This is even more delicate as many of the Countries within the Gulf of Guinea are struggling with critical domestic issues like insurgence, poverty and internal security – which places a high demand on their financial resources. Financial contributions to implement the policies could be a further stretch on their limited resources. “Goodwill” as the word implies, is void of real commitment. It hinges more on “whenever possible and whenever available.” Dependence on goodwill could make it possible for participating States to drag feet in consideration of their share of criminal incidents Vis avis the financial input involved. Regional rivalry could also arise since there are three regional blocs concerned. This is typical of issues in Africa which are always drawn between tribal and language lines.
Some security and maritime experts reached out to, strongly believe that in order not to undermine the commitments of member States of the Gulf of Guinea and the overall purpose of the summit; it is important to seek for alternative financial mechanism. This is one area where the international community should come in – especially beneficiaries of the huge resource base in this region. Their financial assistance or input would go a long way in helping to implement policies. Donor agencies, multinationals and or international financial institutions like the Africa Development bank, Islamic Bank, etc should also be placated into making meaningful financial inputs or contributions. With this, State dependence wouldn’t pose a problem.
BY : GODYCREATIVE