Africa is talking the counterpiracy walk and has yet to contribute to the fight beyond signing an agreement in January and providing some court and prison space for trying and incarcerating pirates. The US Council on Foreign Relations in an “expert brief” last week said the African Union and several of its member states – including South Africa – have publicly spurned piracy and have signed a code of conduct to repress piracy, commonly referred to as the “Djibouti Code of Conduct“.
“But only Kenya and the Seychelles have taken any notable action–by agreeing to receive and try captured pirates – and Africans are conspicuously absent from the joint patrols, International Affairs Fellow in Residence, Michael L. Baker, wrote in a brief titled Building African Partnerships to Defeat Piracy.
“Meanwhile, behind closed doors, some African bureaucrats and leaders decry piracy as an outside problem plaguing the rest of the world but not Africa. They claim that the international community expects Africa to solve piracy while those same actors turn a blind eye toward illegal fishing and dumping, Baker adds.
“For starters, Africans who believe that piracy is primarily a problem for Westerners are misguided. The costs of piracy are passed on to consumers (including the poorest consumers: Africans) as shipping companies recoup the majority of their losses through their protection and indemnity clauses, and insurance companies recoup their losses through increased rates and policies.
“Recent reporting also indicates that pirates are attacking ships carrying food items to Somalia, causing shortages and increased prices for staple items like rice and flour. World leaders should be sure that their African interlocutors clearly grasp these realities.”
Baker says global actors should respond to such sentiment “by expanding their activities in areas where Africans have high interests and work on long-term approaches to improve African participation in the maritime domain writ large. They should use a robust partnership with Africans at sea to improve partnerships ashore and get at the core problem of the failed Somali state. And they should ensure that their African counterparts understand the real impact that piracy has on African citizens.
“The situation calls for a long-term, multifaceted approach at sea and onshore that establishes trust, protects and builds markets, and enforces laws (both national and international). The international task forces in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean can play a strategic role in each of those three areas to change conditions on the ground in Somalia, but they have to change the nature of their partnerships and expand their mandates.”
Baker says last March’s Southern Africa Joint Patrol is one good example of how this can be done. ” “In March 2009, in the inaugural Southern Africa Joint Patrol, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania conducted combined patrols in the Indian Ocean on board the Sarah Baartman, a South African environmental protection ship. During the one-month operation, the team inspected forty-one vessels, levying ten fines and arresting six ships for violations of national maritime laws. The highlight of the operation was the seizure of one vessel in Tanzania waters with over 300 tons of illegal tuna on board.”
Another example is the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) involving the United States Africa Command and Cape Verde’s government. “This operation puts African maritime boarding teams and police on board US Coast Guard or US Navy vessels to enforce African maritime law. AMLEP offers an operational platform for small African maritime forces, enabling them to extend their reach throughout their territorial seas and Exclusive Economic Zones. To date, AMLEP operations have focused on combating illegal fishing and countering illegal trafficking in West Africa. The last two operations resulted in five seizures of vessels illegally fishing in Sierra Leone’s waters,” Baker writes.