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.
The various efforts to reduce blue crime in the GoG largely seem to share one key problem: a lack of comprehensiveness. The Yaounde Architecture seems to provide a comprehensive approach to the political aspects of reducing blue crime. The transnational and boundary-crossing nature of blue crime makes the kind of coordination the Architecture aims to foster vital in tackling blue crime. However, the failure to fully staff and fund branches as well as a failure of many MMCCs to initiate joint patrols and allow hot pursuit across boundaries has prevented the Architecture meeting its full potential.
Similarly the disparate efforts of the international community in capacity buulding have led to overlapping and often redundant investments. By failing to have an effective system of communication between the international community and the GoG nations has led to the international community taking measures almost unilaterally. Without taking into account the needs and experiences of the groups they are trying to build capacity in these projects are destined to be ineffective and achieve less than the sum of their parts.
Both the global and regional efforts have their focus on stopping blue crime through punitive efforts, rather than aiming to undercut the root causes. If only the symptoms are tackled, the reduction in treatment will allow the underlying issues to foster new waves of blue crime. Table 1 shows that while the Yaounde Architecture and the increased efforts in tackling blue crime may have resulted in a temporary decrease in piracy, the main focus of its efforts, these efforts have only had limited effect and piracy has reached levels higher than even during the Niger Delta insurgency.
Table 1: Data collated by author from IMB annual piracy reports 2003-2020
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.
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