Article Africa: New Regional Anti-Piracy Agreement

(July 9, 2013) On June 25, 2013, in an effort to help prevent piracy and other illegal maritime actions in West and Central Africa, participants in the <?Summit of the Gulf of Guinea Heads of State and Government, held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, adopted the Yaoundé Declaration on the Gulf of Guinea Security. Two key resolutions contained in the Declaration are on the creation of an inter-regional Coordination Centre on Maritime Safety and Security for Central and West Africa, to be headquartered in Yaoundé, and the implementation of a new Code of Conduct Concerning the Prevention and Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illegal Maritime Activities in West and Central Africa. (Security in the Gulf of Gunea [sic]; Two Major Resolutions Adopted, CRTV (June 27, 2013).) The Declaration went into effect immediately upon signature, according to the President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno. (Valentine Mulango, Cameroon to Host Anti-Piracy Centre, THE CAMEROON DAILY JOURNAL (June 26, 2013).)

Heads of State and government of the Member States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) attended the two-day meeting. (Id.) GGC, founded in 2001, includes as Member States Angola, Cameroon, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, and Sao Tome and Principe. (Mark Lowe, Gulf of Guinea Security, MARITIME SECURITY REVIEW (Aug. 13, 2012); ECOWAS in Brief, ECOWAS website, (last visited July 1, 2013); Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS): History and Background (last visited July 1, 2013).)

According to news reports, piracy in the Central and West African region “reached the peak last year with the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reporting attacks on nearly 1000 sailors, turning the region into a ‘hellhole.’” The types of crimes committed include “fuel bunkering, drug/human trafficking, illegal fishing, and hostage taking,” with pirates also making continental attacks targeting banks in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. (Eugene N. Nforngwa, No Binding Deal for Gulf of Guinea Security, THE STANDARD TRIBUNE (June 25, 2013); International Maritime Bureau, ICC Commercial Crime Services website (last visited July 5, 2013).)

New Coordination Centre

Creation of the inter-regional anti-piracy Coordination Centre inYaoundé is provided for in the Memorandum of Understanding Between ECCAS, ECOWAS, and GGC on Safety and Security in the Maritime Region of West and Central Africa,which was also signed at the summit and which was the first of its kind.(G. Redd, African States Adopt Regional Anti-Piracy Agreement, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (June 27, 2013); Mulango, supra.)

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct on piracy defines the regional anti-piracy strategy and is the precursor to a legally binding instrument. (Ban Welcomes Anti-Piracy Strategy Adopted by Leaders from West, Central Africa, UN NEWS CENTRE (June 27, 2013).) The Code was adopted on March 19, 2013, at a meeting in Benin ofMinisters of Defense, Foreign Affairs, and Security from 25 Central and West African states. (Bulletin 879 – 04/13 – Piracy Update – Gulf of Guinea, LP BULLETIN (Apr. 5, 2013).)

The new Code was developed with assistance from the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and, according toIMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu,incorporates many elements of the Djibouti Code of Conduct of 2009, signed by 20 states in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden area, as well as the Memorandum of Understanding on the integrated coastguard function network in west and central Africa of 2008. (Press Briefing, IMO, IMO Secretary-General Welcomes Adoption of New West and Central Africa Piracy and Maritime Law Enforcement Code by Heads of State (June 26, 2013); Djibouti Code of Conduct, IMO website (last visited July 5, 2013); Integrated Coast Guard Network – West-Central Africa, African Maritime Safety and Security Authority website (last visited July 5, 2013).)

The new Code was also developed pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2018(2011) and 2039(2012). (United Nations Documents on Piracy, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, United Nations Oceans & Law of the Sea website (updated May 24, 2012) [scroll down page toSecurity Council resolutions on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea].) These resolutions “expressed concern about the threat that piracy and armed robbery at sea in the Gulf of Guinea pose to international navigation, security and the economic development of states in the region” and encouraged the ECOWAS, ECCAS and GCC states “to develop a comprehensive regional strategy and framework to counter piracy and armed robbery, including information sharing and operational coordination mechanisms in the region, and to build on existing initiatives, such as those under the auspices of IMO.” (Press Briefing, IMO, supra.)

Signatories to the new Code, according to an IMO summary of the document, intend to cooperate as fully as possible to prevent and repress piracy and armed robbery against ships; transnational organized crime in maritime areas; terrorism at sea; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and other maritime illegal activities. Such cooperation entails:

(a) sharing and reporting relevant information;
(b) interdicting ships and/or aircraft suspected of engaging in such illegal activities at sea;
(c) ensuring that persons committing or attempting to commit illegal activities at sea are apprehended and prosecuted; and
(d) facilitating proper care, treatment, and repatriation for seafarers, fishermen, other shipboard personnel and passengers subject to illegal activities at sea, particularly those who have been subjected to violence. (Id.)

At the same time, the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of states and of non-intervention in other states’ domestic affairs are recognized by the Code. (Id.)

Reactions to Adoption of the Code and Declaration

United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki-moon welcomed the development, and encouraged all Member States of the region to sign and implement the Code. He also urged “bilateral, regional and international partners to provide the necessary resources” and indicated that “the United Nations stands ready to continue to support this process, including through the work of the Secretary-General’s Special Representatives for Central and West Africa.” (Ban Welcomes Anti-Piracy Strategy Adopted by Leaders from West, Central Africa, supra.)

IMO Secretary-General Sekimizu also lauded the Code’s adoption and noted:”I am fully committed to assisting western and central African countries to establishing a workable, regional mechanism of co-operation for enhanced maritime security. Maritime development is an essential component of African development and maritime zone security is fundamentally important.” (Press Briefing, IMO, supra.)

Cameroon journalist Eugene Nforngwa was more critical of the accord, pointing out that instead of adopting a binding, “strong multinational convention,” the leaders adopted “a transitional code of conduct – a nonbinding political instrument – and an equally non-binding Yaounde Declaration.” Such a step, he remarked, means a delay in adoption of a convention until 2016. (Nforngwa, supra.)

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