Paper: To patrol is to control


At present, little is being done by African governments to protect their maritime interests and resources in the areas of adequate investment in systems and structures for effective maritime security

Rear Admiral OS Ibrahim, Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Nigerian Navy
“….African navies presently cannot protect African trade for lack of sea power”[1]Prof Renfrew Christie
1.     Africa`s Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) and other maritime spaces under national jurisdictions are arguably roughly twice the land mass of the continent, particularly if the demarcation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles is considered. Within this vast maritime space exists enormous opportunities which include the age-long use of the sea to facilitate commerce, integrating cultures as well as the exploitation of its abundant resources for the benefit of mankind. Despite the enormous promise which the sea holds for Africa`s development, several African governments have appeared largely reluctant to invest in sustainable measures that would promote security in Africa`s waters, particularly the EEZ. Consequently, security agencies and various national regulatory authorities have to contend with numerous challenges such as piracy and sea robbery, poaching, arms, narcotics and human trafficking as well as increasing incidents of illegal dumping of waste that have plagued African waters. This has earned some regional waters in Africa the unenviable appellation of ‘ungoverned waters`.It is against this background that I would share the sentiments of Admiral Augusto da Silva Cunha of the Angolan Naval Forces that:
When certain voices are raised against [this] investment in the navy, alleging it to be onerous, we put the question this way: What is the price of resources squandered because of the inability to exercise control over them? What would be the price of a crisis that brought about the collapse of maritime economic activities or that rendered their exercise unfeasible?”[2].
These questions and perhaps, possible answers, are relevant to the measures that would be considered by this Conference to enhance situational awareness, aimed at achieving control in African waters.
2.     The seas, including African waters, are global thoroughfares that sustain the prosperity of several nations and are vital to national and regional security. The maritime domain presents a broad array of potential targets that fit the operational objectives of criminals either for financial gains or as a means to launch attacks. Terrorist and criminal organizations recognize this and would seek to exploit the maritime domain to further their operations. The basis for effective prevention measures therefore lies in awareness and knowledge of the threats and their impact; alongside credible deterrent and interdiction capabilities. However, the threat environment of Africa`s waters in the 21st Century requires broader scope and a more comprehensive vision. We must look beyond traditional surveillance of ports, waterways, and territorial waters and continuously adapt to new challenges and opportunities in the EEZ. We must set priorities for tackling existing threats and developing capabilities to efficiently minimize risks while contending with emerging ones. Our understanding of the maritime domain must incorporate intelligence from situational awareness capabilities, which would of necessity, place demands on domestic law enforcement and maritime regulatory authorities of African nations.
3.     Traditionally, maritime patrol could be accomplished by boats, surface ships, submarines or aircraft that are adequately equipped to act against threats to security in an area of interest. Patrol thus makes it possible to exercise authoritative or dominating influence, even if for a limited period and thereby achieve some form of control. The third key tripod of this topic is ‘situational awareness`, which has of late become a ubiquitous phrase. It is largely a perception of environmental elements within a period of time and space particularly when the need to have complete, accurate and up-to-date knowledge of events in an area of interest is essential for decision-making[3]. Generally, situational awareness involves being aware of what is happening around us to understand how information, events, and actions will impact on stated goals and objectives, both now and in the near future. In this paper, situational awareness shall be used to approximate the well known term ‘Maritime Domain Awareness`, which is the effective understanding of situations/occurrence associated with the maritime domain that could impact on the security of African nations. An effective understanding of maritime domain activities gained through persistent awareness is vital to opportunities for early response; as awareness assures adequate time and distance to detect, deter, interdict and defeat the array of maritime security threats.
4.     This paper shall examine the contemporary and emerging threats in Africa`s EEZ; the challenges as well as prospects for effective situational awareness in Africa`s EEZ. The phrase, ‘Africa`s EEZ`, is used interchangeably in this paper with ‘African waters` to include both the territorial waters and EEZ of African States.
5.     A variety of threat situations exist in Africa`s waters, most of which are well known, while others such as maritime terrorism are still emerging. The contemporary threats are manifest in the form of: piracy and sea robbery; organised crime; including gun-running, smuggling, human and drug trafficking; illegal exploitation of marine resources; and the destruction of marine resources through dumping and pollution. These threats virtually cut across the entire African maritime domain. For instance, instability in States in the Horn of Africa arising from persistent intra and inter-state conflicts has generally led to neglect of security in the maritime domain, which is largely characterised by illegal fishing, dumping of hazardous waste and piracy. In 2008, no less than 60 vessels were attacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia[4]. This led to international action with the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1846 on 2 December 2008 to fight piracy and armed robbery at sea off the Somali coast[5]. Similarly, the Indian Ocean Region has been described as an inherently unstable region where piracy, drugs and arms smuggling are well-entrenched phenomena[6]. Threats in the Mediterranean region encompass arms smuggling to fuel conflict in North and Central Africa`s troubled spots as well as the infamous illegal migration of thousands of Africans into the southern fringes of Europe annually. It is estimated that up to 3,000 African migrants have died en route to Europe through the Mediterranean in the last 5 years. Additionally, available data on emerging threats in the Gulf of Guinea region indicates a rise in the phenomenon of militancy, particularly in the Nigeria-Cameroon-Equatorial Guinea maritime corridor. The activities of the criminals in this area, notably, piracy/sea robbery, kidnapping/hostage taking and oil theft, if left unchecked, could threaten the sea lines of communication; disrupt commerce as well as access to energy supplies in the region. Perhaps, it is in recognition of this that foreign powers have now increasingly sought to play more active role on security issues of the region.
6.     Terrorist groups have demonstrated a capacity to use the seas as a means of conveying and positioning their agents and logistics to wreck havoc including the use of explosives-laden suicide boats as weapons to ram another vessel, port facility, or offshore platforms. The vastness of Africa`s maritime domain provides great opportunities for exploitation by terrorists. Terrorist activities therefore constitute a latent threat to Africa`s maritime domain.
7.     The dumping of nuclear/toxic wastes in the sea area has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise involving various unscrupulous agencies. Besides that, oil spillage has also become a serious threat to maritime environment. The resultant effect is the destruction of the natural habitat for several species of fish, thereby in turn threatening food security.
8.     The economic and social consequences of the prevailing threats in African waters could be grave if they are allowed to persist as they would flourish and ultimately undermine political stability and economic development of the region. In particular, piracy and armed robbery against ships present a serious threat to the lives of seafarers, the safety of navigation, the marine environment, the security of coastal states and the right of innocent passage in areas under the sovereignty of a coastal state. In this regard, increased insurance cost of shipping or even outright boycott of some African ports by genuine shipping lines cannot be overruled. This is already playing out in the Niger Delta where the costs of development projects are almost doubled of what obtains for similar quality of projects internationally due to insecurity[7]. In 2008, insecurity in this region, amidst a global energy crisis, reduced crude oil output by 25% and raising oil prices in excess of $100 per barrel. Likewise, the scourge of illegal and unregulated fishing by foreign fishing fleets constitutes serious threat to the realisation of the benefits derivable by many African nations from these resources. In addition to the depletion of fish stocks due to illegal and unregulated fishing, there are also economic and social costs which include loss of foreign exchange earnings and the loss of livelihoods of several fishing communities in Africa. To address these threats, situational awareness of the maritime domain is of utmost importance as it would provide the knowledge base required to advise African leaders in taking the right decisions that would enhance maritime security in the continent.
9.     Modern day transnational criminal groups are well organized and well-equipped, often possessing advanced communications, sophisticated weapons, and high-speed craft for smuggling of contraband goods; drugs, arms and human trafficking; as well as piracy. Also, systematic destruction of Africa`s marine resources and environment, conflict between African nations over maritime resources and mass illegal migration flows through the seas all have potential security implications for Africa`s stability. Moreover, the sheer vastness of Africa`s EEZ makes it imperative for African nations to harness or develop the means to detect illegal activities, deter unscrupulous groups – African and foreign collaborators alike, from taking advantage of the maritime domain and to neutralise the threats posed by their activities or at least make it difficult for them to exploit the vulnerabilities of Africa`s maritime domain to further their illegal activities. Dealing effectively with these realities require a new mindset that sees the total threat through an understanding of situational awareness of the maritime environment. This is considered sine-qua-non to developing a comprehensive system necessary to achieve security of Africa`s EEZ and African navies have an important peacetime function in support of efforts to combat these threats.
10.   Systems to enhance situational awareness in Africa`s EEZ would of necessity include; the capacities to obtain adequate knowledge of events in the environment as well as capability to act in preventing or containing any untoward event. Unfortunately, through the actions of several criminal gangs and inaction of governments both within and outside our continent, the people of Africa are being denied the full benefit derivable from the seas to enhance development. At present, little is being done by African governments to protect their maritime interests and resources in the areas of adequate investment in systems and structures for effective maritime security. Even when such structures exist, they are hardly effective for several reasons which border mostly on lack of interest in the maritime domain and the subsequent lack of political will to act on issues concerning maritime security in the continent. Some of the challenges to effective situational awareness in Africa`s EEZ therefore include: inadequate capacity to effectively cover the vast area of Africa`s EEZ, lack of political will by African governments, inadequate synergy between maritime security initiatives of various sub regional organizations and an increasing influence of extra regional powers in the continent.
11.   Inadequate Capacity to Effectively Cover Africa`s Vast EEZ.   About 74 percent of African countries are littoral states, which translates to a significantly large maritime EEZ, with at least 40 of them having one form of law enforcement structure charged with maritime security. Added to this is the fact that there are no physical boundaries at sea in which the countries often claim sovereignty in accordance with international maritime law. Moreso, an assessment of Africa’s naval/coast guard capabilities indicates that their capacity and capabilities to effectively carry out enforcement duties within the maritime areas claimed by their countries are often weak, hence the vulnerabilities are often exploited by criminals to perpetrate illegal activities. Surmounting this challenge demands re-assessment of the roles of maritime organisations and naval forces to develop a holistic approach in supporting Africa`s security efforts of the vast EEZ.
12.   Lack of Political Will By African Governments. Many African governments lack the will to adequately invest in measures and structures for maritime security. This stems from poor maritime culture of many African nations and consciousness of the maritime domain, confirming Mahan[8]`s. For instance, investment in several African navies/coast guards is so insignificant that the effects of their presence are seriously undermined and are therefore ineffective and apart from the ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s, no large peacekeeping operation within Africa had involved naval forces. 
13.   Inadequate Synergy between Maritime Security Initiatives of Various Sub Regional Organizations. There are various security initiatives in the different African sub regions, many of which have not been operationalised due mainly to difficulties in surmounting the national claims of sovereignty. Members of the Gulf of Guinea Commission for instance have been unable to operationalise the Gulf of Guinea Guard Force for security of the region. At the continental level, little attention has been given to the maritime dimensions in the Common African Defence and Security Policy (CADSP) aimed at addressing threats to peace, security and development of the continent. The African Standby Force, as an instrument for the implementation of the CADSP, also does not clearly address the roles and contribution of maritime forces to African security and development. An effective system of situational awareness of Africa`s maritime areas would assist to galvanise the collective will and capacity of sub regional bodies to act in concert for the common good.
14.   Increasing Influence of Extra Regional Powers in Africa. There is a discernable increasing influence of foreign powers in the security of Africa`s maritime domain. The reason often adduced, perhaps justifiably, is the lack of capacities by national governments to exercise effective control over the maritime areas. However, African nations must recognise that the main driving force is the protection of the interests of these foreign powers, over and above every other consideration. This is already playing out in Somalia and the Horn of Africa region in general. The United States of America, in furtherance of its global war on terror, has established AFRICOM and is maintaining substantial naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea region. This tendency presents credible challenge to African nations due to the propensity of foreign powers to stand between African counties` attempt to forge common fronts in favour of their own initiatives.
15.   Combating maritime threats in Africa` waters require developing systems that would ensure that African countries have adequate capacity to exercise control over its maritime domain. Taking the challenges to effective situational awareness in Africa`s EEZ into cognisance, integration of national and regional efforts are essential to effectively exercise the desired level of control. Due to the international nature of the sea and the general lack of maritime capacity in Africa, the support of extra regional powers or institutions may sometimes be required. However, African nations must take the lead and ensure that such assistance is anchored on a well-articulated set of Africa`s interests and priorities. Accordingly, the building blocks of situational awareness to exercise effective control of the maritime domain should be based on developing and integrating civil and naval capacities both at the national and regional levels.
16.   Cooperation and Unity of Efforts. Situational awareness in the maritime domain requires a coordinated effort within and among African nations, including public and private sector organizations and international partners. The need for security is a mutual interest requiring the cooperation of industry and government. The grave challenges to Africa`s maritime security demand that civil and naval authorities have to cooperate more closely in their collective peacetime roles of maritime policing and to optimise resource management. To this end, the major role for African navies may have to be reviewed to advance Africa`s maritime interests. However, the effectiveness of the desired cooperation, both at national and regional levels, would to a large extent depend on political will by African nations to embrace an integrated regulatory framework for maritime security. To this end and because of the enormous area of Africa’s EEZ, it is important that African countries share intelligence and co-ordinate their maritime surveillance and reconnaissance activities. Accordingly, regional cooperation must transit from policy and intent to action on agreements.
17.   Command and Control Systems for Situational Awareness. Situational awareness in the maritime domain would among other things, enhance early detection which would allow for accurate decisions and responses to neutralise threats within the full spectrum of maritime domain. To achieve this, African littoral States must individually and collectively upgrade and integrate its maritime Command Control Communications Computers and Intelligence (C4I) including interoperable long-range communications, towards improving situational awareness. In this regard, the guiding principle is to ensure that stakeholders at all levels know what they can do, how they can do it most effectively and a realisation that situational awareness is in their collective best interest. However, this will demand a common purpose and agreed upon procedures. Promoting awareness of maritime security threats and issues is necessary to advising decision makers on the need to continuously build capacity that would enhance situational awareness that is crucial to exercising effective maritime control. The availability of adequate maritime assets with the right capability together with an integrated C4I systems and procedures are necessary tools for a holistic and near real-time approach to exercise effective control of the maritime domain. Effective C4I systems would entail development of standard reporting procedures as well as development of both global and regional information bases. 
19.   The way forward for African states is ‘multilateral naval cooperation` as defined by Joel J Sokolsky , Professor of Political Science at the Royal Military College of Canada as:
‘… instrument used by a coalition of nations who deem it in their national self-interests to make use of sea power. The same also applies to other contributors to coalition efforts at sea, including small and medium power navies. Therefore, the tactical, strategic and above all political effectiveness of multilateral naval cooperation will always be dependent upon the cohesiveness of the coalition that stands behind, and especially upon, the will of the major contributing naval powers`[9]
Regional and sub-regional initiatives aimed at promoting regional action to address piracy and armed robbery against ships in the wider context of maritime security, seem to be a viable option. The Regional Co-operation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, and includes the RECAAP Information Sharing Centre (ISC) for facilitating the sharing of piracy-related information, is a good example of successful regional co-operation which deserves commendation and could be replicated in Africa. Also in Asia, we have the Five Power Defence Agreement involving countries from South East Asia and Oceania. It is pertinent to note the contributions of the ECOMOG Naval Task Force during the Liberia/Sierra Leone crises. One can safely conclude that having achieved the humble feat in the 1990s, Africa can actually achieve multilateral naval cooperation in this century. This could involve multilateral staffing and procurement of C4I systems which would be of mutual benefits. The acquisition of collective C4I systems, which would be held and operated at a combined headquarters, is a cheaper and more realistic option to achieve situational awareness.
20.   Mahan made a prophetic remark that “the ocean is the key to the seven seas. In the 21st century, the destiny of the world will be decided on its waters.” It is time for Africa to rethink its destiny by embracing multilateral naval cooperation to secure the potentials of her waters.
18.   Africa`s EEZ should be safe for navigation, commerce, and sustainable exploitation of its natural resources. However, the challenge of securing Africa’s waters is enormous and requires great efforts. Situational awareness in the maritime domain is a continuum that begins far beyond the borders of individual African nations and requires a critical blend of tangible resources such as equipment and personnel, along with intangible items such as useful intelligence and strong partnerships. Situational awareness provides the basis to make near-real-time strategic and tactical decisions on response to maritime threats in Africa`s EEZ. The capabilities to achieve effective control will include sensors, rapid response capable maritime or land-based platforms as well as effective command and control systems. Integration of situational awareness platforms to enhance effective control of Africa`s EEZ and unify of efforts of African sub regions in security initiatives are critical to success.
1.     The Maritime Security Quandary in the Horn of Africa Region – Causes, Consequences and Responses: Cdr (Dr) Thean Potgieter. South African Military Academy, Nov 2007
2.     The Journal of Navigation (2008), 61 : 655-665 Cambridge University Press doi:10.1017/S0373463308004888 Volume 61 Issue 04 – Oct 2008 Published online by Cambridge University Press 02 Oct 2008
3.     The Manifestation and Challenges to Combating Piracy on the East Coast of Africa: Dr Henri Fouché. Tshwane University of Technology, Nov 2007
4.     Maritime and Naval Cooperation and Integration of Effort on the East Coast of Africa: Wilfred J. Kagimbi. Chief Surveyor & Receiver of Wrecks, Kenya Maritime Authority, Nov 2007.
5.     The Importance of Fisheries Resources on the East Coast of Africa – The Protection of Resources in the Region through Joint Initiatives: Martin Purves & Marcel Kroese, Nov 2007.
6.     The Role of African Naval Assets in Support of the African Standby Force: Lt Col J. E. Karia, Nov 2007.
7.     Projecting Stability: NATO and Multilateral Naval Cooperation in the Post Cold War Era: Joel Sokolsky, Professor of Political Science, 1997.
                                                                        OS IBRAHIM
March 2009                                                     Rear Admiral                                  

[1] Prof Renfrew Christie, University of West Cape, Seapower for African Navies
[2] Proceedings Magazine, Issue: March 2008 Vol. 134/3/1,261.
[3] Situational awareness has been recognized as a critical, yet often elusive, foundation for successful decision-making across a broad range of complex and dynamic systems, including aviation and air traffic control (see Nullmeyer, Stella, Montijo, & Harden 2005), emergency response and military command and control operations (see, Blandford & Wong 2004; Gorman, Cooke, & Winner 2006), and offshore oil and nuclear power plant management (see, Flin & O`Connor, 2001).
[4] International Maritime Bureau (Piracy Reporting Centre).
[5] UNSCR 1846 authorised States and regional organizations, cooperating with the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use “all necessary means” such as deploying naval vessels and military aircraft, as well as seizing and disposing of boats, vessels, arms and related equipment used for piracy in accordance with relevant international law for 12 months from 2 December 2008.
[6] Maritime Security in the Changing International Geo-Strategic Scenario and its Influence on the East Coast of Africa: Brigadier Ngewa Mukala, Kenya Navy, 2007.
[7] It was recently reported that the cost of establishing a Gas-to-liquid plant in Escravos is more that twice the same amount for similar plant in Dubai by the same company, having factored in what it called ‘costs incidental to the security environment`.
[8] AT Mahan, Naval Strategy
[9] Projecting Stability: NATO and Multilateral Naval Cooperation in the Post Cold War Era : Joel Sokolsky