Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea: Drivers,
Strategic Interests and Responses
Maritime piracy has re-emerged as a serious threat to peace and security,
notably following the significant increase in incidents and armed
robbery at sea that occurred largely in four main areas at the moment:
the Gulf of Aden, near Somalia and the southern entrance of the Red
Sea; the Indian sub-continent, particularly between India and Sri Lanka;
the Malacca Straits between Indonesia and Malaysia, and the Gulf of
Guinea where piracy appears to be the “most dangerous and violent”1
and the “most profitable in the world”. 2 It affects a number of countries
in Central and West Africa as well as the international community. By
2011 it had become an issue of international security concern due to
the fact that the maritime trade and economic growth in the countries
located in this area are being compromised.
In its broadest sense, the Gulf of Guinea covers, geographically, a wider
geopolitical field that involves the Central African and West African
sub-regions. The sub-regional economic organizations in the area are
the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS3) and the
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS4).
1 For details, see : - Rapport d’information N° 1670 sur la piraterie maritime, enregistré à la
Présidence de l’Assemblée nationale française le 13 mai 2009 par M. Christian Ménard. – J.
V. Ntuda Ebode, (coord.), Piraterie et terrorisme : de nouveaux défis sécuritaires en Afrique
Centrale (Yaoundé, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Presses Universitaires d’Afrique,
2010) - The contribution of Paul Ndue et al. in Cameroon Tribune N° 10368/6569, June
24, 2013, p. 21 – J. P. Meloupou et M. Tameken Ngoutsop, ‘Piraterie et mécanismes
psychosociologiques de défense dans le Golfe de Guinée‘, SociologieS [En ligne], consulté
le 11 janvier 2014, URL : http://sociologies.revues.org/4155.
2 M. N., Murphy, ‘Petro-Piracy: Oil and Troubled Waters’ Orbis, 57: 3 (2013), 424-437.
3 ECCAS’s member States are: Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic,
Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe
4 The fifteen (15) West African States that constitute ECOWAS: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape
Verde, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Cost, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria,
82 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
The main objective of this chapter is to show that irrespective of its
rich natural and human resources, the Gulf of Guinea has to cope with
numerous challenges and strategic interests. Abject poverty, inequality,
lack of social mobility, “catastrophic governance”5 and sociopolitical
discontent or internal unrest associated to cosmetic democracy, rule of
networks and “seismic political changes”6 create uneven vulnerabilities,
and construct a fertile ground to pirates. The challenge that the region
now confronts is to secure a sustainable peace through effective
responses to today’s insecurity7.
Alice O’Connor8 in her thought-provoking essay on the work of a
grant maker lamented that social science research largely has shifted
away from advocating, engaging, and refining progressive reform.
Nonetheless, the question of the role of the social sciences or the role of
knowledge produced in the university more broadly9 and the question
of what this knowledge ought to be makes this study both relevant and
timely. Maritime piracy has potentially grave consequences for the
well-being and security of people.
Taking into account these features of today’s realities, with the adoption
of a very broad definition of security that extends into developmental
areas traditionally quite foreign to the military, the case for greater
engagement by, and attention to, the social sciences10 is clear. Their
knowledge is indispensable in the search for a clearer understanding of
the costs, causes and consequences of piracy, economic and strategic
Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo.
5 R. Joseph, ‘State, Governance and Insecurity in Africa’, Democracy and Development,
Journal of West African Affairs, Harmattan Edition, 3: 2 ( 2003), 12-14.
6 A. A. Gordon & D. L. Gordon, Understanding Contemporary Africa (Boulder, Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 2013).
7 L. Sindjoun, Sociologie des relations internationales africaines (Paris, Karthala, 2002).
8 A. O’Connor, Social Science for What? (New York, Russell Sage Foundation, 2007).
9 For more details on the role of knowledge produced in the university, see C. Calhoun and
D. Rhoten, The Public Mission of the Research University (Columbia, Columbia University
10 World Social Science Report: Changing Global Environments, (UNESCO Publishing,
Herman Touo 83
interests of the involvement of external actors, and for informing more
effective, equitable and durable solutions to today’s security challenges.
Given the fact that globalization brings a new level of awareness and
consciousness to this security challenge as well as its reconfiguration
and instrumentality, the publicity and unprecedented character of the
regional and international responses to the region-based maritime piracy,
the chapter aims to inform and put into context the appropriateness
of the measures that have been or need to be instituted to reduce or
completely eradicate this plague which is an emerging transnational
threat to peace and security.
Specifically, the chapter aims to insert the evidence-based knowledge
produces, through the analysis of piracy drivers, strategic interests
and responses, into regional and global debates and policies focusing
on governance and peace in the region in connection with the everchanging
African security architecture. Attention would be focused
on the harmonization of counter piracy measures and promotion of
governance so that the region’s blessings do not feed the theory of
“natural resources curse”11, the “paradox of plenty”12 or the hypothesis
that natural resource riches are associated with poor government
Established theories of the political economy of oil among economists
and political scientists expected oil to bring prosperity, stability, and
a kind of development to Africa. Yet in contrast oil appears to have
prevented some of its African producers from developing, instead
inflicting instability and violence upon them. Africa’s oil has come to
be considered an intrinsically “cursed” substance. In fact, it has been
widely argued and empirically well-established that much of the piracy
attacks that affect the Gulf of Guinea are the product of the disorder
11 R. M. Auty, Resource-Based Industrialization: Sowing the Oil in Eight Developing
Countries, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990).
12 T. L. Karl, The Paradox of Plenty: Oil Booms and Petro-States (Berkeley, University of
California Press, 1997).
84 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
that surrounds oil exploitation in the region. This peculiar state of
affairs has provoked a rethinking of orthodox theories and has fuelled
the concept of the ‘resource curse’. In essence this is a scenario in
which oil becomes a problem rather than a solution or an obstacle to
economic growth and political order.13 A large proportion of the recent
piracy attacks targeted vessels carrying petroleum products. These
vessels are attacked because there is a booming black market for fuel
in West and Central Africa. In such a climate pirates have an incentive
to steal oil, since they know that they will be able to sell it on the black
market. Without this ready market generated by poor governance, there
would be, probably, little point in attacking these vessels. Michael I.
Ross notes that, “the resource curse is overwhelmingly an oil curse”.
According to Kevin M. Morrison, “oil is a curse, the argument goes,
because it makes countries perform worse economically than they would
be otherwise, and leads them to be more autocratic, civil war-prone, (…)
oil is less like a universal acid and more like a powerful tool, which can
have good or bad effects depending on the circumstances”.14 There are
indications that oil and other sub soil minerals and maritime wealth may
also be smuggled outside the region, mismanaged, used for personal
political purpose while negotiating deals with some opposition political
parties or to resist external pressure for reforms. Kirk Hamilton15 and
Giovanni Ruta conclude that good governance is crucial to transform
natural resource wealth into good economic performance. Whatever
13 For more details on the concept of the ‘resource curse’, see: - R. M. Auty, Sustaining
Development in Mineral Economies: The Resource Curse Thesis (London, Routledge
1993) - M. Humphreys et al. (eds), Escaping the Resource Curse (New York, NY,
Columbia University Press, 2007) - R. S. Oliveira, Oil and Politics in the Gulf of Guinea
(London, Hurst and Company, 2007) – N. Shaxson, Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of
African Oil (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) – T. Mitchell, Carbon Democracy:
Political Power in the Age of Oil (London, Verso, 2011) - D. Kopiński et al., Resource
Curse or Resource Disease? Oil in Ghana, African Affairs, 112:449 (2013), 583–601 – K.
M. Morrison, ‘Whither the Resource Curse?’, Perspectives on Politics, 11: 4 (2013), 1117-
14 M. I. Ross, The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations,
(Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2012).
15 K.M. Morrison, “Wither the Resource Curse?” Perspectives on Politics, op. cit.,1122
Herman Touo 85
the level of government, good management is a precondition for good
According to Nicolas Van De Walle16, the combination of weak and
failing states in the region, high levels of poverty and slow economic
growth suggested a fertile ground for [piracy and] terrorism. Ryan S.
Jablonski17 and Steven Oliver conclude that pirates’ attacks are, in part,
a response to poor labor market opportunities. In many countries of the
region, the social fabric remains plagued by unemployment. Scholars,
policymakers and common citizens agree that maritime piracy is a
growing scar on the conscience of the world - imposing large costs
on maritime states and the shipping industry, as well as potentially
undermining state capacity and funding terrorism.
While contributing factors driving maritime piracy in the contemporary
era and the principal dangers associated with this particular manifestation
of transnational crime in the Gulf of Guinea have received the lion’s share
of attention, yet the implications of this discussion regarding, strategic
interests and responses, or attempted to measure its influence on policy
framing, have not been adequately appreciated. In fact, maintaining
public order and ensuring development has been the classical duty of
national authorities in any sovereign State.
This has always been achieved by the administrative wing of the
bureaucracy using the monopoly of legitimate violence with the
assistance of its military wing. For some time, the Central and
West African states have been facing economic, political and, not
surprisingly, security problems. Apart from the classical infringements,
there has been the development of new and complex ones, such as
urban criminality, rural criminality with the famous ‘coupeurs de route’
(high way robbers) carried out across the member states frontiers or
16 K. Hamilton and G. Ruta, “From Curse to Blessing: Natural Resources and Institutional
Quality” World Bank Annual Review,July 2005- June 2006,24-27.
17 R. S. Jablonski and S. Oliver “The Political Economy of Plunder: Economic Opportunity
and Modern Piracy”, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 57: 4 (August 2013), 682-708.
86 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
cross-border violence, terrorism18 and piracy (kidnapping, taking of
hostages, armed robbery on land or at sea). With the insufficiency and
ineffectiveness of national efforts, attempts have been made at the subregional
level to fight against these crimes.
More broadly, the conceptual and empirical puzzles of this piece can be
simply and directly formulated in three central questions. What is the
best way of understanding and countering maritime piracy in a region
that experiences a certain degree of lawlessness, violence and generates
strategic interests? How human insecurity among the populations in
this region has encouraged and sustained piracy and to what extent is
this human insecurity driven by socio-economic and political dynamics
associated with vested local and international interests in the economies
of the region? Is the current regional policy framing for countering
piracy sufficient or does it needs to be changed in some fashion or
complemented by external dynamics?
The first hypothesis driving this research is that the countries located
in the Gulf of Guinea can not progress if their waters became too
dangerous for the free movement of peoples and goods, and that their
towns can not be safe if pirates continued to flood them with drugs and
weapons. The second hypothesis is that the adoption of preventive and
operational measures as well as the strategic interaction with other
actors in sub-regional, regional and international scene is the way
Based on the existing formal and informal published sources,
newspapers report as well as both qualitative and quantitative research
methods, this chapter proceeds as follow in the next developments.
18 A BBC documentary broadcast on April 22, 2014, showed how Boko Haram in Nigeria
has the support of some criminal elements in southeastern Niger Republic, al-Shabab in
Somalia, the al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and AQMI in carrying out its terror activities. This
Islamic sect has infiltrated neighboring countries. Militants from Nigeria come across
borders recruiting young men in their twenties who attributed their readiness to join the
insurgency to unemployment (see Cameroon Tribune N° 10576/6775, April 24, 2014, 56).
For more details see the interview of Samuel Kale Ewusi in The Median N° 0118, June 9,
Herman Touo 87
First, it illuminates the theoretical underpinnings of the analysis and the
conceptual discussion or clarification. Second, it seeks to understand
and explain the scope of the problem. Third, it examines strategic
interests and responses. The conclusion sums the findings of the work
and makes some recommendations regarding the best way to counter
maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Theoretical Background and Conceptual Discussion
Theoretically, this study is built on constructivist security studies. By
constructivist security studies we mean those works that have brought
the assumptions of social constructivism into security studies.19 This
involves adopting the outstanding statement of Alexander Wendt that
“anarchy is what states make of it”20, to the maritime piracy realm:
thus “maritime piracy is what we make of it”. The focus here will be
on two major strands of thought. The first is the work on “security
communities”.21 The central theme is that security communities are
best understood as path-dependent and socially constructed, with the
trigger mechanisms for security communities having both material and
The important insight that this approach develops is that state actors
might see security as achievable through community rather than through
power or threatening others states’ security as it is at the heart of the
security dilemma.22 There is a growing consensus that the security of X
state is the condition of the security of Y state. Moreover, insecurity in
X state is or will be the source of insecurity in Y state. Counter piracy,
19 P. Berger et T. Luckmann, La construction sociale de la réalité (Paris, Meridiens
20 A. Wendt, ‘Anarchy is What States Make of It: The Social Construction of Power Politics’,
International Organization, 46:2 (1992), 391-425.
21 E. Adler and M. Barnett (eds), Security Communities. (Cambridge, Cambridge University
22 M. McDonald, ‘Securitization and the Construction of Security’, European Journal of
International Relations, 14:4 (2008), 563-587.
88 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
therefore, is something that can be constructed collectively; insecurity
is not simply the “given” condition of the international system. This
implies that maritime piracy is not a natural phenomenon, but a manmade.
Henceforth, security is what states make of it.23 The idea here
is that a constructivist approach, which recognises the importance of
knowledge for transforming regional structures and security politics, is
best suited to address seriously how the international community can
shape security politics and create the conditions for a stable peace. The
second major strand developing a constructivist account of international
security is based on the security culture of different states.
The central theme of this approach is that national security interests
are defined by actors who respond to cultural factors. This does not
mean that power, conventionally understood as material capabilities, is
unimportant for an analysis of national security, but the meanings that
states and other political actors attach to power and security help us
to explain their behaviour. It is useful to note that for all the focus on
identity, norms and culture in this approach, the state is still the actor,
and military security remains the form of security to be explained.24
Our argument also internalizes the logic of neorealism, or structural
realism, to address counter piracy programme. Neorealism contends
that states maximize their autonomy by balancing against other states,
and balancing behavior can be of two kinds: internal or external.
Internal balancing is relying on one’s own capability; external balancing
is relying on the capabilities of allies’ states.25 What neorealism does
assert is that agents tend to be sensitive to costs, and that if agents act
contrary to structural necessities or fail to react to shifts in power they
are often punished. William C. Wohlforth26 argues that balance of power
23 N. G. Onuf, World of Our Making: Rules and Rule in Social Theory and International
Relations (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989).
24 S. Smith, ‘The Contested Concept of Security’, http://hdl.handle.net/10220/4423, URL
consulted on June 26, 2012.
25 K. N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1979).
26 W. C. Wohlforth, The Elusive Balance: Power and Perceptions during the Cold War (Ithaca,
NY, Cornell University Press, 1993), 16.
Herman Touo 89
frameworks are “ubiquitous and necessary”. Drawing inspiration from
the balance of threat theory, we agree that different kinds of threats
generate different kinds of responses and alliances.27 Individual national
or sub-regional capacities, as well as efforts to eradicate maritime
piracy seem inadequate to prevent or effectively stamp out the threat.
Therefore, collective effort is a best way, to avoid a situation where,
once eliminated in one country or area of the Gulf of Guinea, this
scourge would re-emerge in another.
Throughout the world, transnational pirate networks are filling in as the
common threat against which states can build new networks of security
cooperation which is a product of consultation, negotiation, bargaining
and planning among sovereign states. International cooperation can
help to maintain global peace and security through joint operations
and coordinated policy responses to such security threats by national
governments, and regional and global organizations.28 Although the
concept of security used in this chapter is primary grounded in the
traditional notion of military/state security, the conceptual discussion
helps us to broaden the concept to give importance to the security of the
individual in relation with policy options.29
The definition of the concept of security and its utility in understanding
and explaining piracy seems appropriate to make our case. In the same
vein, the definition of the term piracy will also help us to highlight the
scope of the problem.
27 For more details on the balance of threat theory, see: - S. M. Walt, The Origins of Alliances.
(Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1987) – E. Adler & P. Greve, ‘When Security
Community Meets Balance of Power: Overlapping Regional Mechanisms of Security
Governance’, Review of International Studies 35:S1 (2009), 59–84.
28 S. Lamy, ‘Contemporary Mainstream Approaches: Neo-realism and Neo-Liberalism’ in J.
Baylis et al. (eds), The Globalization of World Politics (New York, Oxford University Press
29 S. K. Ewusi, ‘Governance and Security Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa: From Empirical
Research to Policy Options’ in Samuel K. Ewusi and J. B. Butera (eds.), Governance and
Security Policy in Africa, UPEACE Africa Policy Series Vol. 1, No 1, Dec 2013: 1-8.
90 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
From Security to Human Security
Security in its basic essence involves reducing vulnerability to threats.
Like life itself, security is something for which people will pay almost
any price by joining their efforts. Where security is not guaranteed,
anarchy settles in, abuses become frequent, economic and social
progress slow down. Security is a necessary condition for sustainable
development and quality of life for citizens. Without security it is
widely believed that neither good governance nor the provision of an
adequate level of public goods is possible. The work of Barry Buzan30
is enormously important in the definition of this concept.
The key element in Buzan’s analysis is to broaden the security agenda
so as to involve five sectors rather than deal only with one of the five,
which was the traditional focus, i.e., concentrate on military threats to
the security of states. Conventional realist approach, which contends
that nations embedded in an anarchic international system, must
engage in self help to survive, tend to adopt this perspective, which
has traditionally dominated academic security studies.31 To this, Buzan
added political, economic, societal and ecological security sectors.
The development of ecological preoccupations also constitutes a
manner to promote the interests of the coastal States in piracy studies.
Importantly, Barry Buzan discussed the individual as the “irreducible
base unit” for discussions about security. But for this author, individuals
could not be the referent object for the analysis of international security.
The state remains the referent object, as it is the state that stands at
the interface between security dynamics at the sub-state level, and the
security dynamics operating at the level of the international system.
However the role of individuals or local populations should not be
undermined in relation to intelligence information. Elite units ensuring
30 B. Buzan, People, States and Fear: An Agenda for International Security Studies in the
Post-Cold War Era, 2nd edition, (Hemel Hempstead, Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991).
31 H. J. Morgenthau (revised by Kenneth Thompson), Politics among Nations: The Struggle
for Power and Peace (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 1985).
Herman Touo 91
security in affected areas, to be efficient, need the cooperation of local
populations. Threats to security challenge the capacity of states, regional
and international organizations to solve problems afflicting humanity.
Furthermore, conception of security has significantly shifted from the
traditional view of state security concerned with preserving sovereignty
and territorial integrity to a new concept of human security, focuses on
individual welfare and protection of the environment for sustainable
development following the 1994 Annual Report of the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP).
Starting from the premise that the end of the Cold War gave an impetus
to rethinking the concept of security, the UNDP proposed that the focus
should shift from nuclear security to human security. “The concept of
security,” the report argues, “has for too long been interpreted narrowly:
as security of territory from external aggression, or as protection of
national interests in foreign policy or as global security from the threat
of nuclear holocaust (...) Forgotten were the legitimate concerns of
ordinary people who sought security in their daily lives”.32
The Report notes four main features of the concept: it is a universal
concern, relevant to people everywhere because the threats are common
to all; its components are interdependent since the threats to human
security do not stay within national borders; it is easier to achieve
through early rather than later intervention; it is people centred, in that
it is concerned with how people ‘live and breathe’ in society. The Report
outlines seven areas or specific elements that comprise human security:
(i) economic security (e.g., freedom from poverty); (ii) food security
(e.g., access to food); (iii) health security (e.g., access to health care and
protection from diseases); (iv) environmental security (e.g., protection
from such dangers as environmental pollution and depletion); (v)
32 United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Human Development Report 1994, (New
York: Oxford University Press), 22.
92 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
personal security (e.g., physical safety from such things as torture, war,
criminal attacks, domestic violence, drug use, suicide, and even traffic
accidents); (vi) community security (e.g., survival of traditional cultures
and ethnic groups as well as the physical security of these groups); and
(vii) political security (e.g., enjoyment of civil and political rights, and
freedom from political oppression).
This list is so broad that it is difficult to determine what, if anything
might be excluded from the definition of human security. Indeed the
drafters of the report seem distinctly uninterested in establishing any
definitional boundaries. Instead they make a point of commending the
“all-encompassing” and “integrative” qualities of the human security
concept, which they apparently view as among the concept’s major
strengths. The Report also identifies six main threats to human security:
unchecked population growth, disparities in economic opportunities,
migration pressures, environmental degradation, drug trafficking,
and international terrorism. Today the UNDP’s 1994 definition of
human security remains the most widely cited and ‘most authoritative’
formulation of the term.
Aspects of human security include individual safety from threats such
as hunger, disease and repression and protection of individual from
harmful disruptions to daily life.33 According to Caroline Thomas34,
human security refers to the provision of ‘basic material needs’ and
the realization of ‘human dignity’, including ‘emancipation from
oppressive power structures - be they global, national, or local in origin
and scope’. Ronald F. Inglehart35 and Pippa Norris believe that the shift
from a narrow focus on military security toward the broader concept
of ‘human security’ is a natural response to the changing challenges
33 T. Kotter, ‘Fostering Human Security through Active Engagement of Civil Society Actors’,
Human Security Journal 4 (Summer 2007), 44-54.
34 C. Thomas, ‘Introduction’ in C. Thomas & P. Wilkin (eds.), Globalization, Human Security,
and the African Experience (Boulder, Lynne Rienner, 1999), 3.
35 R. F. Inglehart and P. Norris ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Understanding
Human Security’, Scandinavian Political Studies, 35: 1 (2012), 91.
Herman Touo 93
facing developed societies in which the cost-benefit ratio concerning
inter-state war has become negative and cultural changes have made
armed conflict among countries less acceptable. They also predict
that subjective perceptions of human security are important drivers of
human behaviour, affecting psychological feelings of well-being and
happiness, as well as social and political values, with important societal
What is Maritime Piracy?
The term ‘piracy’ is multi-definitional, that is, it is a term with a strictly
legal set of criteria and also a term which is used to describe a wide
range of otherwise criminal activities which are committed by some
organizations in maritime settings. The Law of the Sea Treaty, formally
known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the
Sea, or UNCLOS III, adopted in 1982 with the purpose to establish a
comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans and to replace previous
U.N. Conventions on the Law of the Sea, one in 1958 (UNCLOS I) and
another in 1960 (UNCLOS II), that were believed to be inadequate, for
example, defines the term in its article 101 as follows:
“Piracy consists of any of the following acts: (a) any illegal acts
of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed
for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship
or a private aircraft, and directed: (i) on the high seas, against
another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on
board such ship or aircraft; (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons
or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State; (b)
any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or
of an aircraft with knowledge of facts making it a pirate ship
or aircraft; (c) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating
an act described in subparagraph (a) or (b)”.
This definition is relatively limited, given the fact that most pirate attacks
36 Ibid, 93.
94 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
occur within the twelve-mile limit of a state’s territorial waters and are
therefore more accurately referred to as armed robbery. A more general
definition has been adopted by the International Maritime Bureau (IBM)
as follows: “Piracy is an act of boarding any vessel with the intent to
commit theft or any other crime and with the intent or capability to use
force in furtherance of that act”. Both definitions describe the nature of
the threat, or illegal activities on the seas and coastal waterways and
will be used throughout this chapter. Piracy, especially since the end of
the Cold War, has flourished especially in those areas routinely used in
the transit of commercial goods.
In order to formulate and implement effective countermeasures,
policymakers must be able to distinguish piracy from maritime
terrorism. John Patch notes that:
“It is too easy to confuse piracy with water-borne terrorist
acts. (…). While maritime piracy incidents capture media
attention and generate international calls for action, the piracy
threat is in fact overstated. It is nothing more than highseas
criminal activity, better addressed by law enforcement
agencies than warships. As a localized nuisance, it should not
serve to shape maritime force structure or strategy. (…) The
distinction between piracy and terrorism is neither semantic
nor academic, if piracy, the responsibility lies with local law
enforcement officials, not the military. But maritime terrorism
means scrambling the Navy”. 37
The U.S. National Strategy for Maritime Security38 relates that pirate
groups could employ capabilities to board and commandeer large
underway vessels to facilitate terrorist acts.
37 J. Patch, ‘The Overstated Threat’, Proceedings Magazine, US Naval Institute, December
2008, Vol. 134/12/1, 270.
38 U.S. National Strategy for Maritime Security (2005), 5.
Herman Touo 95
According to Nelson39 maritime terrorism and piracy are terms used to
describe violent acts carried out by malevolent actors operating at sea.
We typically correlate the former with acts of war committed by rogue
ideologues while the latter connotes criminal activities committed
by brigands for profit. Neither terrorists nor pirates are entirely selfsufficient,
they both require some form of support in order to achieve
their goals and objectives. This support could range from money to
arms and supplies. It is plausible to suggest that pirates and terrorists
could collaborate and provide some assistance to each other. However,
terrorists would stand to gain a lot more from the relationship than
pirates. By underscoring the obstacles facing maritime terrorists, and
what pirates stand to gain by providing assistance to them, it is possible
to see where collusion between them could prove beneficial.
Piracy is as old as society itself. It has evolved in the Gulf of Guinea
over the first decade of the century. For some time, smaller ships
shuttling employees and materials belonging to the oil companies with
any involvement in oil exploitation had been at risk in Nigeria. Over
time, pirates became more aggressive and better armed. By 2010, 45 and
by 2011, 64 incidents were reported to the UN International Maritime
Organisation, however, many events go unreported. According to the
International Maritime Bureau, pirate incidents of the West Africa
seaboard in 2012 increased to 34 from 30 the previous year. Vessels are
primarily captured for their valuable cargo rather than for hostages as
recent. Thus, seized oil tankers are redirected to chartered tankers that
receive the stolen oil. Piracy acts interfere with the legitimate trading
interests of the affected countries. As an example, trade at Benin’s
major port, the Port of Cotonou was reported in 2012 to have dropped
by 70 percent.
39 E. S. Nelson, ‘Maritime Terrorism and Piracy: Existing and Potential Threats’, Global
Security Studies, 3I:1 (2012).
96 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
The new piracy is of a different genre. Like in a civil war, the threat
is harder to identify correctly because it is within. It has significantly
increased the nature of the nonmilitary, transnational, and asymmetric
threats in the maritime domain. Pirates operate either in collusion
with, or in the absence of, political actors. It is globalised by the same
technologies which created the global economy. It makes use of sea
travel and the internet. It uses similar encryption algorithms to hide its
Understanding and Explaining the Phenomenon
Like piracy elsewhere, the origins of the Gulf of Guinea piracy can be
rooted in many factors. Martin N. Murphy40 recognises seven factors that
contribute to piracy: “(1) legal and jurisdictional weakness; (2) favorable
geography; (3) conflict and disorder; (4) weak law enforcement; (5)
permissive political environments; (6) cultural acceptability; and (7)
promise of reward”. The theme surrounding each of these factors is
that piracy thrives when states are unwilling or unable to extirpate the
threat. Pirates capitalize on the weaknesses of a state and reap financial
rewards in the process. In view to contextualise the discussion, we
have summarised the above factors into five drivers: geography, weak
law enforcement, maritime insecurity, economic pauperisation and
dislocation, and cultural acceptability.
As the physical features of a place or region, geography refers to the
obvious fact that regions with close proximity to waterways tend to
experience piracy. Proximity to major shipping routes of transportation
and major ports render piracy more lucrative, hence increases the
degree of probability of piracy.41 Geography, however, also refers to
40 M. N. Murphy, Small Boats, Weak States, Dirty Money: Piracy and Maritime Terrorism in
the Modern World (New York, Columbia University Press, 2008).
41 J. V. Hastings, ‘Geographies of State Failure and Sophistication in Maritime Piracy
Hijackings’, Political Geography, 28:4 (2009), 213–223.
Herman Touo 97
the existence of hideouts or places to hide, that is, coastal strips or
islands which are difficult to reach or control. Hideouts are necessary
for preparing a piracy operation and for the case of ransom piracy to
anchor the vessel. Piracy dens or sites however are dependent on basic
infrastructure, such as roads or nearby villages to ensure the logistics
required for an operation. In principle piracy operations can also be
launched from ports, especially if they are weakly governed and with
poor surveillance. In geographical terms the Gulf of Guinea has an
impressive coastline of 8,200 km in the northeastern part of the tropical
Atlantic Ocean. A significant number of remote coastal villages provide
dense and a sufficient infrastructure for kidnap and ransom piracy.
Weak Law Enforcement and Lack of Cccountability
The factor of weak law enforcement stresses that the lower the risk
of getting caught and punished for piracy, the higher the likelihood
that piracy occurs. This concerns various levels of law enforcement
stretching from coast guard and naval capabilities by which coastlines
and the sea are patrolled and kept under surveillance, to policing,
intelligence and prosecution capabilities on land, as well as the
efficiency of the judicial sector allowing for the prosecution of pirates.
As shown in various studies the prevalence of official corruption is a
further major factor impacting the likelihood of piracy, since pirates
not always operate outside the law but often in collaboration with law
enforcement agencies. Therefore, maritime piracy is a requalification at
sea of corrupt practices in public administration where files are taking
hostage by some unscrupulous civil servants asking ransom to users.
Andrew J. Shapiro argues that “combating piracy emanating from a
failed state will require concentrated and coordinated assistance to states
in the region (…) to build their capacity to deal with the social, legal,
economic and operational challenges to effective law enforcement”.42
42 A. J. Shapiro, ‘Confronting Global Piracy’, Testimony before the Subcommittee on
Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Washington,
DC, June 15, 2011.
98 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
Lack of accountability is another driver of piracy. With the help of
Wikipedia, we can argue that in governance, accountability has expanded
beyond the basic definition of ‘being called to account for one’s actions’.
It is frequently described as an account-giving relationship between
individuals, e.g. ‘A is accountable to B when A is obliged to inform B
about A’s (past or future) actions and decisions, to justify them, and to
suffer punishment in the case of eventual misconduct’. Accountability
cannot exist without proper accounting practices, such as pushing
governments to achieve results, and to do better in demonstrating what
works, what does not, and explaining why. There is a growing interest
in going beyond the measurement of results to being able to understand
the basis for success or failure. Reyes Williams (2006) concludes that:
“In leadership roles, accountability is the acknowledgment and
assumption of responsibility for actions, products, decisions,
and policies including the administration, governance, and
implementation within the scope of the role or employment
position and encompassing the obligation to report, explain
and be answerable for resulting consequences”.43
In Cameroon, history has recorded a strange media outing by a former
Manager of the National Hydrocarbons Company (NHC / SNH) in
the mid 80s on oil operations in the country. Asked to give a balance
sheet of petroleum drilling operations, the sale and impact on the
national economy, the then Manager answered with humor, explaining
to the journalist that petroleum issues were too complicated to the
comprehension of an ordinary citizen and that there was no point
explaining all the complexities because they were never going to be
understood. In other words, oil is assumed to be a particular kind of
resource, posing specific problems of governance.
43 R. C. Williams, Leadership Accountability in a Globalizing World (London: Palgrave
Herman Touo 99
It is a finite and highly volatile source of revenue; it is not ‘productive’
in a conventional sense; its extraction constitutes a specialised and
frequently ‘enclave’ or obscure operation.
A factor closely related to weak law enforcement and lack of
accountability is the degree to which the maritime environment of a
region is insecure and prone to violence. Piracy tends to occur in seas
in which there is a host of other illegal activity, such as trafficking,
smuggling and illegal fishing. This is not only related to the question of
coast guarding and law enforcement at sea, but also in how far violence
and insecurity at sea is considered to be the norm. Okechukwu C.
Iheduru44 acknowledges that the Gulf of Guinea has been a zone of
maritime insecurity for many centuries, back to the era of the trans-
Atlantic slave trade.
The nature and impact of this insecurity has changed over time, often
reflecting changes in the world economy and state system. In the past
two decades, maritime insecurity in this region has been exacerbated
by the twin forces of globalisation and the growing problem of failed
or weak state. Although aspects of this insecurity may be regional or
local, they pose a serious challenge to global security and the world
economy in view of today’s more integrated and complex economic
relationships. With maritime insecurity, coastal communities have been
disproportionally disadvantaged and fundamentally threatened in their
livelihood.45 On November 12, 2007, about 21 Cameroonian soldiers
were killed at the Bakassi Peninsula by pirates.
44 O. C. Iheduru, “Globalization, State Failure and Maritime Insecurity in West Africa”, in
Ocean Yearbook, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers & Transactions Publishers, 21 (May 2007),
45 R. Marchal, ‘Somali Piracy: The Local Contexts of an International Obsession’, Humanity:
An International Journal of Human Rights 2:1 (2011), 31–50.
100 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
The killing of these soldiers was followed by a series of other tragic
attacks. Furthermore, on February 6, 2011, the pirate group known as
African Marine Commando (AMC)46 carried out an attack in which they
took 12 Cameroonian officials as hostages. Pirates and armed robbers
have also, on several occasions, used sea routes to enter in some cities
in Cameroon like Limbe and Douala and attacked banks where they
carried away considerable sum of money.
Economic Pauperisation and Dislocation
Rightfully speaking, piracy has often been described as a business
model and has been seen as an activity that is primarily economically
motivated. While piracy promises considerable revenues, there is a
direct causal link between poverty or lack of employment opportunities
and piracy although this cannot be constructed absolutely. Rather than
poverty per se, the crucial factor is economic dislocation. Communities
that tend to engage in piracy are those which have been economically
marginalized, have been put at disadvantage by economic developments
and globalization processes or are not allowed to participate in sources
In other words, local resource governance has an effect on the local
population’s view on the ‘necessity’ of violence to push through their
demands. Local control over petroleum production and its revenues has
been a core demand among oil-affected communities in the Niger Delta
for decades. Yet, the Nigerian government has neglected these demands
and reacted to initially peaceful protests with repression. Consequently,
an armed conflict erupted between the government and a plethora of
local rebel groups using pirates’ attacks as modus operandi. This conflict
did not only cost thousands of lives, but also pushed civilians to support
the rebels’ cause and alienate them from the state.
46 See the contribution of Paul Ndue et al. op. cit.
Herman Touo 101
While the levels of violence have dropped since the 2009 amnesty
program, the problematic relationship between the Nigerian state and
multinational oil or fishing companies on the one side and the local
population on the other side has remained a major development
barrier. Some pirates - particularly those from the Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND -claim to be fighting for
a fairer distribution of Nigeria’s vast oil wealth, and as a protest to the
damage caused by oil production in the Delta.47
Cultural Acceptability and Skills
Piracy has also a considerable cultural dimension. In order for piracy
to prevail it requires some sense of legitimacy or acceptability. Foot
soldiers have to be recruited and convinced that to engage in piracy is a
legitimate activity and the majority of piracy operations are dependent
on support from local communities, which provide shelter, food and
other supplies as response to their marginalization by the central
government. Cultural dimension is the availability of skills required for
piracy among the inhabitants. Such skills include navigation, boarding,
weapon handling or negotiation skills.
Stig Jarle Hansen48 indicates that many of the skills required for
contemporary piracy, include the use of GPS, maritime tracking or
techniques of boarding ships. Also land based kidnapping and ransom
taking has become a widespread practice in the Gulf of Guinea
before the rise of piracy, hence skills and experience most likely have
transferred to piracy practice. Ken Menkhaus49 remarks that ‘the act of
piracy is little more than an extension of activities that armed groups
have engaged in for years: militia roadblocks, extortion and kidnapping
47 D. Nincic, ‘Maritime Piracy in Africa: The Humanitarian Dimension’, African Security
Review, 18:3 (2009), 6. See also F. Onuoha, ‘The Geo-strategy of Oil in the Gulf of Guinea:
Implications for Regional Stability’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, 45:3 (2010), 369
48 S. J. Hansen, ‘Private Security and Local Politics in Somalia’, Review of African Political
Economy 35:118 (2008), 585–598.
49 K. Menkhaus, ‘Dangerous Waters’, Survival, 51:1 (2009), 23.
102 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
for ransom are a staple source of income for gangs and militias (…)’.
Kidnapping for ransom is usually the most profitable than hijacking
(with the intent to steal the vessel or the cargo), but very difficult to carry
off successfully. It requires: - intelligence to locate target vessels far out
at sea - heavy armament, to subdue the vessel and deter rescue attempts.
Taken together, these provide us with a good understanding why piracy
in the Gulf of Guinea has transformed and also give us a tool to ask how
effective the current responses are regarding the strategic interests.
Strategic Interests and Responses
Strategically and economically speaking, the Gulf of Guinea appears
to be a new battle ground for super powers and certain individuals’
interests.50 This battle should not, however, undermine the existence
of the global and regional commitment to establish a counter piracy
Economic and Geostrategic Interests
Peter Chalk argues that:
“Piracy is, above all, an economically driven phenomenon.
This is true both with respect to those who engage in the
practice - profit being the main objective - and those against
whom attacks are directed, ship owners - where the desire
to keep operating costs as low as possible has frequently
outweighed imperatives for more concerted on-board security.
This economic dimension is important in understanding the
manifestation and evolving dynamic of piracy as well as for
setting it apart from maritime terrorism, which is primarily
aimed at leveraging or otherwise undermining the oceanic
environment to secure political, [extremist] ideological or
50 J. C. Servant and H. Forster, ‘Africa: External Interest and Internal Insecurity: The New
Gulf Oil States’, Review of African Political Economy, 30:95 (2003), 139-142.
51 P. Chalk, ‘Maritime Piracy Reasons, Dangers and Solutions’, Testimony presented before
the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and
Herman Touo 103
Different combinations and variations in degree also provide, as shown
by Hastings52, an explanation for different forms of piracy and levels
of sophistication. The factors however largely emphasize structural
conditions, and hence an additional dimension will also require
consideration of the actor dimension. To a certain degree piracy will
always depend on individual actors which plan, prepare and invest in
a piracy operations. A business plan requires to be developed. Hence,
a considerable driving force of piracy will also be criminal-minded
Competition between major powers over oil and gas in the Gulf of
Guinea raises the possibility of armed confrontation as the USA, Europe
and Asia (China in particular) compete for energy resources.53 Major
power competition creates client states, and arming them to defend
national interests indicates that the competition is no longer between
multinational corporations only, but also between states. As state actors
cloak energy security as a vital national interest, armed confrontation
becomes more probable. Access to offshore oil and gas merges with the
defence of energy security through armed confrontation, and the Gulf
of Guinea as a future oil hub could increase militarisation in the region
and in particular if maritime boundaries are unsettled as well.54 The
fight against piracy may be complicated and perhaps undermined by
vested interests and the dynamics they reproduce.
According to the US Government’s 2002 National Security Strategy
document, the Gulf of Guinea states are key contributors to the
diversity of the global oil supply and will remain critical to US energy
security. David L. Goldwyn55 & J. Stephen Morrison concludes that
Maritime Transportation United States House of Representatives on February 4, 2009.
52 J. V. Hastings, ‘Geographies of State Failure and Sophistication in Maritime Piracy
Hijackings’ op; cit.
53 T. Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent from
1876 to 1912 (New York, Perennial, 2003).
54 F. Vreÿ, ‘Turning the Tide: Revisiting African Maritime Security’, Scientia Militaria,
South African Journal of Military Studies, 41: 2 (2013), 9.
55 D. L. Goldwyn & J. S. Morrison (cochairs), ‘Promoting Transparency in the African Oil
104 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
‘the United States has vital – indeed rising – national interests in West
and Central Africa’. With easy access and cheap to refine, West African
oil is particularly well suited to markets in North America and Western
Europe. Moreover, the political tumult in North Africa and the Middle
East, has added further to the importance of West African oil.
Enhanced strategic rivalry between Washington and Beijing in Africa
has not gone unnoticed, and a number of analysts have turned their
attention to this so-called ‘oil rush’ in the region.56 In particular,
what might be called a renewed ‘oil imperialism thesis’ has emerged
in relation to Africa, which posits a post-Cold War struggle for the
continent’s oil between the Great Powers.
Sam Raphael and Doug Stokes57 acknowledge that there has been an
important and clear strategic continuity between the Bush and Obama
administrations, with the central objectives of the American state in
relation to oil-rich states in West Africa remaining largely unchanged.
Among the combination of interests in Africa, Ian Rutledge58 argues
that ‘a fundamental and abiding concern for, and involvement in, the
geopolitics of oil’ was highlighted as the top priority because of three
developments: the rising domestic energy demand, new discoveries and
production of oil in Africa, and new players moving into the continent.
‘African Oil is not an end, but a means: a means to both greater US energy
security and more rapid African economic development’ (African Oil
Policy Initiative Group). The US adds the Gulf of Guinea - to its strategic
map as a part of broader effort to secure its diversification of energy
supplies, to extend the war on terrorism and piracy to Africa, to promote
Sector’, A Report of the CSIS Task Force on Rising US Energy Stakes in Africa, Center of
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), March 2004.
56 M. Klare & D. Volman, ‘The African ‘Oil Rush’ and US National Security’, Third World
Quarterly, 27:4 (2006).
57 S. Raphael and D. Stokes,”Globalizing West African Oil: US ‘Energy Security’ and the
Global Economy”, International Affairs 87:4 (2011), 903–921.
58 I. Rutledge, Addicted to Oil: America’s Relentless Drive for Energy Security (London, I.B.
Herman Touo 105
good governance and to prevent rising powers, particularly China, from
dominating the continent. China59 is cashing in on the good relationship
it had built with many African countries over the years to secure access
to energy and other natural resources; expand its economic activities
and its political influence in the continent.60 To achieve their objectives,
the US is increasing military spending, presence and activities while
China is wielding its economic muscles by expanding bilateral trade,
pouring in investment and increasing its foreign aid with emphasis
on infrastructural needs of African economies.61 In this process, both
are courting ‘some of the world’s most egregious regimes62supplying
weapons to the most dangerous places, and protecting their oil interests
with whatever means available.
Xu Yi-chong63 notes that at the background of the current scramble for
Africa are some central questions: how the dominant and rising powers
can adjust each other in a changing world? Is competition for strategic
resources in Africa part of the process of reshaping the global political
and economic order? Is Africa a testing battlefield for both powers
to decide their global position? Will this rush to Africa for strategic
resources, especially oil, precipitate conflicts among major powers [or
generate piracy attacks]?
However, Sub-Saharan African oil production increased from 5 to 7
percent of world production between 2001 and 2007, and now accounts
for roughly a fifth of US oil imports (a quarter if North Africa is
included). Nicolas Van De Walle64 argues that the increasing reliance
59 P. Brookes & J. H. Shin, ‘China’s Influence in Africa: Implications for the United States’,
Background, No. 1916, Heritage Foundation, 22 February 2006.
60 F. Cheru & C. Obi (eds.), The Rise of China and India in Africa: Challenges, Opportunities
and Critical Interventions (London, Zed Books, 2010) .
61 H. Touo, ‘Les économies africaines doivent-elles avoir peur de la Chine’, Identity, Culture
and Politics, 12 :2 (2011), 19-42.
62 Cora Currier, “The Scramble for Oil,” The Nation, May 18, 2006
63 Xu Yi-chong, ‘China and the United States in Africa: Coming Conflict or Commercial
Coexistence?’, Unpublished manuscript.
64 N. V. Walle, ‘Us Policy Towards Africa: The Bush Legacy and the Obama Administration’,
op. cit., 8.
106 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
of the US on oil imports from the African subcontinent supported the
administration’s re-evaluation of African security issues.
Regional and Global Commitment to Counter Piracy Agenda
Most of the solutions to maritime insecurity in the African Gulfs have
been through bilateral agreements among the countries of the region, or
with other bilateral donors like the US, France, China, Germany, Great
Britain, Italy, Russia etc. Andrew Shapiro65 notes that: ‘Piracy affects
the international community as a whole and can only be effectively
addressed through broad, coordinated, and comprehensive international
Regional and Inter-regional Initiatives
Due to the socio-political unrest and armed conflicts in the majority
of its member States, ECCAS, apart from traditional cooperation and
regional integration missions, committed itself to promote peace and
stability in Central Africa. At the Malabo Heads of State and Government
Conference in 1999, four priority fields for the organization were
identified by member states.
The most important is to develop capacities to maintain peace, security
and stability, which are essential prerequisites for economic and social
development. At a summit conference of the United Nations’ Standing
Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa which took
place in Yaoundé on 25-26 February 1999, member states decided to
create an organisation for the promotion, maintenance and consolidation
of peace and security in Central Africa, which would be called the
Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa (COPAX).66 With the
continuation of these endeavours, the member states of Economic and
Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) had to organize
their collective security within the framework of CCPAC (Comité des
65 A. J. Shapiro, ‘Confronting Global Piracy’, op. cit.
66 For details see, E. Mvie Meka, Architecture de la sécurité et gouvernance démocratique
dans la CEEAC (Yaoundé, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), 2007).
Herman Touo 107
Chefs de Police d’Afrique Centrale / Police Chiefs Commission of
Central Africa). Its statute was signed on 14 June 2000 in Yaoundé. The
capacity to identify new forms of crimes and actions to fight them is
bestowed henceforth to CCPAC. As such, the national policies to fight
against criminality were supposed to depend on the decisions taken by
this body. The harmonization of police policies is still awaited and the
international principle of the non-interference in the internal affairs of
states has not been wiped off.67
There have been others regional initiatives like the ECCAS Strategy
on the Protection of Vital Interest in the Sea of October 2008. More
importantly, it is Cameroon that first addressed the necessity for a
comprehensive inter-regional approach to solve the problems of
maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea in November 2008.
In this vein Central Africa States take collective measures to fight
against piracy by putting in place, in October 2009, a regional structure
of common maritime security, the Central Africa Regional Centre for
Maritime Security [known in its French acronym as CRESMAC],
based in Pointe-Noire (Congo). The ECCAS maritime security
strategy is based on six pillars which are as follows: - the common
information management - local surveillance measures by the detection
and mutualisation of air and naval means - legal and functional
harmonisation of States’ maritime operation - self-financing through a
Community tax - purchase and maintenance of equipment dedicated to
the strategy - and the institutionalization of a maritime conference for
In addition, one can cite the Luanda Declaration on Peace and Security
in the Gulf of Guinea of November 2012 and the African Integrated
Strategy on Seas and Oceans - horizon 2050, adopted by the African
Union on December 6, 2012.
67 M. G. Bongyu, ‘The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and
the Decline of Sovereignty’, Journal of Asian and African Studies, 44:4 (2009), 389-406.
108 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
Thanks to various UN actions such as the Declaration of August 2011,
the Security Council’s Resolution 2018 of October 30, 2011 (the firstever
resolution on this issue, calling on countries of the Gulf of Guinea
to develop a comprehensive response to piracy and armed robbery at
sea), the evaluation mission of November 2011 and the Resolution
2039 of 2012, the Gulf of Guinea has also increasingly gained global
attention that calls for a global response beyond the ECCAS space.
The inter-regional conference on Maritime Safety and Security in the
Gulf of Guinea organised by ECCAS, ECOWAS and the Gulf of Guinea
Commission (GGC) in Yaoundé, Cameroon on June 24-25, 2013, has
come as a great relief to people living in the 25 nations, that have been
living under the permanent threats of piracy and other transnational
maritime crimes. The Heads of States and Governments of the Gulf
of Guinea who met in Yaoundé, took the commitment to work together
to promote peace and security in West and Central Africa, establish an
inter-community cooperation among countries of the two economic
groupings and draw up a joined operational process to fight piracy and
other illicit activities in their maritime space.
The outcome of the Yaoundé summit on safety and security in the Gulf
of Guinea is the manifest political will among all the stakeholders
who are members of ECCAS, ECOWAS and the GGC. The strategic
political commitment is evident considering the quality and quantity
of participation and content of resolution taken. The Final Declaration
provides for the establishment of an intercommunity framework for
cooperation on maritime security. A code of conduct for the prevention
and repression of acts of piracy was also adopted. Lastly, a Memorandum
of Understanding was signed, providing for the setting up, in Cameroon,
of an Inter-regional Centre for the coordination of measures taken by
Herman Touo 109
Okechukwu C. Iheduru68 concludes that the sources and consequences
of these threats are both local and global in nature and effect. Therefore,
future directions in dealing with them must be anchored in the realisation
that maritime piracy is human and any threats to it must be dealt with
collectively and collaboratively, especially with support from the
United States and other developing countries. In other words, the above
initiatives provide ‘African solutions to African problems’ and need to
be complemented by the international community.
The emerging of development and security in Western policies vis-à-vis
‘weak’ states in Africa can be considered as the result of the terrorists
attacks of September 11, 2001 which renewed the interest in strong and
stable states, leading many donors to focus on capacity building and
security sector reform. These concerns led directly to an increased US
military role in the region. As early as October 2002, the Combined
Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was launched: 1,800 US
soldiers were based in Djibouti (Camp Lemonier), with the objective of
deterring and countering threats in Somalia, Kenya, and Yemen, and
providing technical assistance in counter piracy and terrorism to local
armies including those of the Gulf of Guinea.
Camp Lemonier represents the first permanent US base on the continent
in several decades. Similarly, the Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI), a programme
funded by the State Department, was set up to enhance border capabilities
throughout the region against arms smuggling, drug trafficking, and
the movement of transnational terrorists in African countries of Mali,
Mauritania, Niger, and Chad. These efforts were enhanced in 2005
through the Defense Department’s Operation Enduring Freedom -
Trans Sahara (OEF-TS) and the State Department’s Trans-Saharan
Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI). In 2008, most of these activities
68 O. C. Iheduru, “Globalization, State Failure and Maritime Insecurity in West Africa”, op.
110 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
were transferred to the new military command established for Africa,
US Africa Command (AFRICOM), which was now to consolidate all of
the counter piracy and terrorism activities in the region, as well as more
traditional training and technical assistance provided to African military
units such as: African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), African
Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA), Joint
Combined Arms Training System (JCATS), African Center of Strategic
Studies (ACSS) and Central Accord. The creation in October 2007 of
AFRICOM by the Bush administration, with temporary headquarters
at Stuttgart in Germany, signaled enhanced strategic interests in the
region, and suggests, according to Nicolas Van De Walle69, a policy
Until AFRICOM achieved full operational capability on October 1st,
2008, Africa was assigned to U.S. European Command (EUCOM)
except Egypt, the nations of the Horn of Africa states that were under
Central Command. In July 2008, US European Command conducted
the Operation Africa Endeavor 2008 a multinational interoperability
and information exchange exercise in Nigeria with the participation of
the armed forces of Nigeria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi,
Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho,
Malawi, Mali, Namibia, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
General William Ward, commander of AFRICOM, attended the closing
ceremonies at Nigerian Air Force Base, Abuja.
The following year’s Africa Endeavor exercises were held in Gabon, with
‘more than 25 nations participating - the second largest communications
exercise in the world’. For the first time run under the command of
AFRICOM, it focused on ‘interoperability and information sharing
among African nations via communication networks and collaborative
communications links with the United States, NATO and other nations
with common stability, security and sustainment goals/objectives for
69 N. V. Walle, ‘Us Policy Towards Africa: The Bush Legacy and the Obama Administration’,
Herman Touo 111
the African continent’. Participants included the Economic Community
of West African States and Gulf of Guinea nations Benin, Cameroon,
Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, and Sao Tome and Principe.
AFRICOM has been vigorously debated ever since. Some observers
see AFRICOM as the integrated answer to an African security system
crippled by a lack of resources, widespread politicisation, corruption
and institutional weakness. Others claim that the programme is nothing
more than another attempt by the US to secure its own interests in the
The international community more broadly speaking has expressed
concern over the increasing number of reports of piracy in the Gulf
of Guinea. In November 2011, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
assembled a team to examine the situation. As a result a recommendation
was made to convene a regional summit as to form a united front by the
affected West and Central African countries (Yaoundé Summit of June
24-25, 2013). It was recognized that the area needs a comprehensive
maritime security framework across national boundaries to fight piracy,
further, technical and logistical help is needed from the international
On November 19, 2012, the United Nations Security Council held an
open meeting to discuss piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, among other
areas. It was noticed that while acts of piracy in the Indian Ocean were
declining due to coordinated naval operations, piracy in the Gulf of
Guinea was intensifying. Experts suggested applying lessons learned
there to the Gulf of Guinea, ‘including a focus on modernizing counterpiracy
laws, strengthening capacities for maritime law enforcement
and crime investigation, supporting regional networks and increasing
70 Servant, JC and Forster, H, “Africa: External Interest and Internal Insecurity: The New
Gulf Oil States,”Review of African Political Economy 30 (95),2003:139-142.
112 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
In addition, the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa was held
in Paris on December 6-7, 2013. It dealt with peace and security in
Africa, the economic partnership and development, and climate change.
Fifty-three delegations from African countries and France took part in
the Summit, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the
African Union, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund,
the World Bank and the African Development Bank. The Heads of State
and Government reiterated their commitment to collective security in
Africa and to encouraging peace and promoting human rights, in line
with the goals and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and
the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
They called for enhanced strategic dialogue between Africa and France
for a shared vision of threats. They affirmed that peace, security, and
the promotion and protection of human rights were inseparable and
that a rapid response in the event of serious human rights violations
could be an effective conflict prevention tool. They also highlighted
that the establishment of terrorist and criminal networks - drug and
human traffickers, poachers and traffickers in endangered species, who
fuel corruption networks, as well as those who exploit natural resources
illegally - are a threat to peace and security in Africa and worldwide.
They considered that partnerships in the fight against terrorism
and transnational organized crime should emphasize training and
information sharing. Aware of the threats linked to piracy and maritime
trafficking, and building on the success achieved in the Horn of Africa
and the Indian Ocean, the Heads of State and Government committed
to continuing their efforts and improving regional and international
cooperation to ensure the security of the African maritime domain.
These developments indicate the emergence of the region maritime
security community consciousness. Christian Bueger71, notices that a
71 C. Bueger, ’Communities of Security Practice at Work? The Emerging African Maritime
Security Regime’, African Security, 6 (3-4), 2013: 297-316. See also C. Bueger, ‘Practice,
Pirates and Coastguards: The Grand Narrative of Somali Piracy’, Third World Quarterly,
34:10 (2013), 303.
Herman Touo 113
‘security community is characterized by a shared repertoire that includes
a shared securitisation, a joint enterprise to include shared projects of
protection, and a high level of mutual engagement’. This meets the new
Swedish policy on the role of its Armed Forces. It holds that:
‘Defending a nation has historically been equivalent to
protecting its borders. Today, defending a nation can take
place far away, through creating peace, stability and prosperity
in turbulent parts of the world. In this manner, defending a
nation has come to include defending its values, and protecting
democracy or human rights”. 72
The current lack of maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea
has a negative impact on stability, human security, economic and
political development in the region. In reality, Africa should find the
means to ensure its own security with the assistance of the international
community. A major challenge to the United Nations and other
multilateral actors has been a quest for a holistic solution to maritime
insecurity and piracy although such efforts in the Gulf of Guinea have
been, to a certain extent, relatively late. Representing a more general
shift in security interventions in Africa, countering piracy and terrorism
is now presented as part of a broader ‘peace and security’ agenda, but
despite using new methods to engage with so-called crucial parts of the
population, this repositioning is not a paradigm shift. Regardless of the
different approaches and objectives, the various projects have ambiguous
effects and donors have not abandoned the traditional rationality, which
privileges homeland security over human security in some recipient
countries. Therefore, time has come for Africans to assume meaningful
ownership of their maritime resources and safeguard the region through
comprehensive and interactive strategies to ensure peace and stability,
72 Quoted by R. Inglehart and P. Norris, op. cit, 75.
114 Peacebuilding in Sub-Saharan Africa: African Perspectives
thereby prompting sustainable development in the Gulf of Guinea. A
united front in this situation promises to be the best approach. The Golf
of Guinea nations should also build a better, more integrated intelligence
capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats;
coordinate closely with external actors to form a common assessment
of the most dangerous threats; and continue to professionalise their
military forces to ensure their ability to conduct rapid and precise
operations to achieve decisive results. Conspicuously poor governance
undermines national and regional stability. For decades, political power
has been rooted in access to the nation’s wealth, distributed to a small
coterie of supporters.73 States must do something by making every
effort to promote good governance, equity in development, democratic
norms, respect for human rights, internalise the principle of ‘the right
man at the right place’ in public administration and effective emergence
response to human suffering. A Nation is successful because of the hard
work, creativity, and enterprise spirit of its people. We suggest that the
‘curse’ of oil in the Gulf of Guinea should be perceived as a treatable
‘disease’ that can be cured by genuine democratic governance. Piracy
threatens the fragile living conditions of people. Maritime piracy cannot
adequately be addressed and eradicated unless it is seen as both a cause
of social and economic hardships and an effect of social, political and
extreme poverty as well. Therefore, our thesis is that the sustainable
response to the socio-economic and political environment that gives
rise to and sustains maritime piracy is that all the costal countries of
the Gulf of Guinea zone develop economically, industrialize massively
and be able to maximize, through strongly constructed democratic
governance, the benefits of the exploitation of the natural resources that
are available in the region.
73 D. L. Goldwyn & J. S. Morrison (cochairs), ‘Promoting Transparency in the African Oil
Sector’, op. cit, 17.