The Gulf of Guinea (GoG) is a vital sea lane stretching across the West African coast. The actual area constituting the GoG has evolved over time. The Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) founded in 2001 reaches from Nigeria to Angola and presents a small GoG. However, more recently the United Nations Security Council has stretched this, defining the GoG as the coastal states of both the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as those in the GCC (UNSC, 2011). This broader definition has since been adopted by the countries that made up the original GGC as well as ECOWAS and ECCAS. This definition was further embedded through the Yaoundé Code of Conduct adopted these countries (Yaounde Code of Conduct, 2013).
This piece will be examining transnational efforts to fight crime at sea in the GoG since the Yaounde Code of Conduct as this act seemed to represent a massive re-structuring of maritime security in the region. Of particular importance was the introduction of the Yaounde Architecture that enabled greater regional and transnational cooperation in tackling blue crime. This piece will critically analyse the measures taken since 2013 in regard to fighting blue crime. This will be followed by evaluating their success and issues that have been ignored despite their critical importance to security in the region.
Due to the international community’s stake in ensuring safe shipping lanes through the GoG, several nations have made significant efforts to try and assist in tackling blue crime. Foreign nations were able to effectively curtail piracy in East Africa by send vessels to patrol Somali waters and providing armed guards to civilian vessels (Yücel, 2021, p. 147). This is not a viable option for West African blue crime as there are numerous maritime borders and GoG nations are unlikely to risk their sovereignty by allowing foreign navies to travel their waters or allow armed private security to cross maritime boundaries where SALW proliferation is already a major issue. However, in a manner that seems similar to Somalia, the international community has a set of narrow objectives focused on ensuring free trade, global energy security and reducing arms in the region (Ukeje & Mvomo Ela, 2013, p. 25). To achieve these goals the international community has mostly focused on capacity building. The EU, US and China have all put significant investment into GoG nations and regional bodies to reduce blue crime. For China the focus has been on military equipment and has delivered (often at no cost) a large quantity of modern patrol vessels to an array of GoG nations (Okafor-Yarwood, et al., 2020, p. 83). This contrasts with US and EU efforts that have been more focused on developing institutional capacity as well as training law enforcement, military and judicial personnel involved in fighting blue crime (Jacobsen, 2017, pp. 244, 246). Strengthening the Yaounde Architecture has been a particular goal of the EU (Jacobsen, 2017, p. 243). The EU and the US have also both made significant efforts to improve training of naval and maritime law enforcement personnel through exercises and workshops (Okafor-Yarwood, et al., 2020, p. 82).
While these efforts may have led to improved security capabilities, they have often been driven by their providers who believe their expertise leads their programmes to be most effective. In reality this has often been cause for complaint among recipient nations who have had overlapping or repeated training from different programmes, or training irrelevant to their own material capacities (Jacobsen, 2017, p. 249). A similar problem is that many efforts to build GoG capacity are forced run only short-term due to changing governments or lack of funding available to longer-term projects. This is in direct conflict with the necessity of long-term programmes that can develop and evolve to meet the actual needs of recipients (Jacobsen, 2017, p. 247).
Michael has an undergraduate degree in Middle Eastern Studies from University of Edinburgh, he is currently a post-graduate student on the International Masterin Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies program led by the University of Glasgow. His research focus is violent non-state actors such as insurgents, militias and pirates. He has produced several whitepapers for ARX covering piracy in Africa and South East Asia.