Lessons learned – how Seychelles can help other African regions to tackle piracy
File photo: A Somali pirate, part of a group of 6 pirates caught at sea by the Seychelles defence forces after they had taken a Seychelles fishing boat hostage , 31 March 2010 (Seychelles News Agency)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The experience gained by the Seychelles in tackling piracy and other issues relating to maritime security over the past few years is being placed under the microscope to look at ways of applying these measures to other affected regions in Africa.
The African Union (AU) in partnership with the European Union (EU) is currently meeting for a two-day ministerial conference on maritime security in Victoria, the capital of the 115-island archipelago.
While piracy around the Horn of Africa, which affected container ships, fishing vessels and cruise ships traversing the strategically important location, has been significantly brought under control, criminal activities in other areas, particularly around Western Africa, the Gulf of Guinea and the North African and Mediterranean region.
In partnership with the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) as well as other international organisations, the Seychelles has been central to international efforts to tackle the problem of piracy, establishing a United-Nations backed piracy court as well as a Regional Anti-Piracy Prosecution & Intelligence Coordination Centre (RAPPICC) now known as the Regional Fusion and Law Enforcement Centre for Safety and Security at Sea (REFLECS3) which has brought together experts from around the world to share intelligence and information on piracy.
Pirate attacks off the vast coastline of Somalia have declined from 236 in 2011 to two reportedly unsuccessful attacks in 2014, thanks to international counter-piracy cooperation efforts.
Now that cruise ships are finally beginning to make a comeback at Port Victoria, the question remains undecided: will the cooperation continue and for how long? The European Union’s EU-NAVFOR mission has previously indicated it may halt its operations in the area by as soon as 2016, leaving experts wondering how to ensure that the pirates will not re-surface in the future.
|The ministerial delegates of the EU-AU Conference on Maritime Security gather for a group photograph at the opening ceremony held on Sunday 8 February in the Seychelles. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC BY-NC|
It is likely that the answer to these questions lie in ensuring that the roots of piracy are tackled, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has poured funding and personnel into reinforcing the infrastructural stability of the source of most piracy in the region - Somalia, ravaged for decades by war.
Speaking at the conference, the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Chergui, called on international partners to continue to supporting maritime security in the African region as a whole, and gave the commitment of the AU towards collective African action to keep order at sea, particularly in the regions experiencing an upsurge in piracy.
“In this endeavour, we could and should rely on the numerous decisions and initiatives taken by the competent authorities in the African Union and regional economic communities,” said Ambassador Chergui to the delegates.
“In this light I would like to highlight that the AU’s Peace and Security Council, has at various instances underlined its preoccupation with regards to the serious threats which are posed as much by maritime piracy as by illegal fisheries and other connected scourges.”
Speaking to local television broadcaster Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport, Joel Morgan, said the delegates were looking for ways that the African Union can build up its competence across various states which are affected by issues of terrorism and criminal activities on the high seas such as arms, drug and human trafficking.
“Lessons learned is all about this, to look at what we have done here and how it can be adapted elsewhere in other regions because the risk is increasing there,” said Minister Morgan, adding that groups who were involved in terrorism and criminal activities profit from situations of instability as it allowed them to further propagate their actions.
The current summit is also being considered by the organisers as a form of preparation for another international conference on maritime security which will be held in Togo before the end of this year.