The welcoming address by the Chief of the South African Navy, Vice Admiral Johannes Mudimu to delegates attending the Third Sea Power for Africa Symposium: 9 March 2009
The Minister of Defence, The Honourable Mr Charles Nqakula, Commander of the Naval Forces and Minister of National Defence of Sao Tome and Principe, Her Excellency, Doctor Elsa maria D` Alva Texeira de Barros Pinto, Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, The Honourable Mr Ntuli and Committee Members, Acting Secretary for Defence, Mr Motumi, Chief of the South African Defence Force, General Ngwenya, Members and Officials of the Plenary Defence Staff Council, Defence Military Attaches, Fellow Heads of Navies and Delegates, Colleagues from the International Navies, Generals and Flag Officers, Partners and Friends from the Defence Industry and Media Representatives, Senior Officers, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I formally accept the Chairpersonship for the 3rd Sea Power for Africa Symposium and thank the outgoing Chairperson the Chief of the Nigerian Navy, Vice Admiral Isiah Iko Ibrahim for his term in office and the hosting of the 2nd Sea Power for Africa symposium in Abuja, Nigeria in May 2006.
I have been pondering how to begin my talk this morning – What to say, and more so after having emerged from two successful Sea Power for Africa Symposia. How do I say something difference, something that will help us face a new dawn and give hope, a dream to our continent and its` people. What is it that must be done in new ways to provide safety and security in the many challenges we face in the maritime domain. Something that will tell me there will be change of this symposium. A programme of action that will appeal to our leaders to take immediate action to our plight and readiness to author a new chapter for the African Agenda.
I have endeavored to take stock of what has been already done in this regard. I am wondering about new possibilities that can assist the Navies and Coast Guard of Africa with trust to face these many challenges by effective and decisive actions.
I feel pained to see that the issues of criminality such as piracy and oil theft continue unabated on the West and East Coasts of our continent. The deplorable issues of human trafficking where numerous people perish at sea through using un-seaworthy boats to gain access to Europe in search of a better life. This situation is further perpetuated on the West Coast of our continent by the access points being used by drug smuggling syndicates to route drubs to our continent and Europe.
This results in the destruction of our youth. Turning them into worthless drug addicts and thus denying our continent the opportunity for our youth to develop into the scientists, engineers and other professionals we need to flex the economic muscle of our continent.
We continue to notice the rise in statistics that speak of a face of a continent that is flooded with small arms and weapons that in many cases are smuggled by sea. This fuels the conflict that plagues parts of our continent. I wonder how many more symposia will be required to resolve all these situations.
Hence Colleagues, I feel greatly honoured that we have in our presence this morning the Minister of Defence, Honourable Charles Nqakula, who gave us the parameters and direction of what is expected from us all and reaffirmed South Africa`s commitment to being a reliable and co-operative partner in not only our region and continent but also with all countries throughout the world. Our Navy, in line with our Government`s initiatives believes in extending a hand of friendship with all nations to assist in bringing peace and stability so that a better life for all is thereby created.
It is indeed a great honour for the South African Navy to once again host this most important forum and I thank you all for accepting my invitation to attend and participate in this opportunity to promote maritime security on the continent of Africa and interact and share views with the international navies present.
I am pleased to once again make acquaintance with those colleagues I regularly meeting at the International Sea Power Symposium in Newport, the last two Sea Power for Africa Symposia held in Cape Town and Abuja and the Mediterranean and Black Sea Power Symposium in Venice. All these symposia have a common vision – to ensure maritime security in all regions of the world.
At these international forums it comes to the fore that the Navies of the world face common challenges and thus need a collective approach to overcome them head on. We need to be aware of what is happening in our waters, who and what is being transported and by which vessels. This collective approach covers many areas where we must work together, and during the next few days we will deliberate on this plot the way forward.
Colleagues, while we gather here over the next few days we need to bear in mind that we must give hope to the people of our continent. There are pressing challenges facing our continent such as poverty, hunger, disease, conflict and corruption. We need to define a new agenda that speaks to all these challenges. We must urgently devise plans and most importantly convert them into actions to bring about peace and stability for the well being of our people. Africa will only enjoy an environment of development and prosperity when these life-threatening conditions are totally eradicated.
I thank the representatives of the international Navies that are present here today and appreciate their willingness to share their experiences and their co-operation with our Navies to improve maritime security in the waters that surround our continent.
Colleagues, we cannot underplay the challenges we face in the maritime security domain. The situation has changed over the last decade and this requires new approaches and reviewed strategies. In this regard it has become evident that network centric warfare is not always adequate in confronting asymmetric threats – we therefore need to collectively apply our minds and come forward with innovative solutions.
As mentioned earlier, we continue to see significant increases in criminal activities such as piracy, sea robbery, drug and arms smuggling, human trafficking, poaching and pollution particularly on the African continent. This is specifically predominant in regions where there is a lack of naval presence because of the non-existence of naval forces or inadequate resources allocated by coastal countries to maintain maritime security.
To sketch the seriousness of the situation arising from a lack of maritime security, I beg your indulgence to touch briefly on some of these criminal activities.
Acts of piracy and sea robbery take place on the Horn of African and the Gulf and Guinea with oil theft predominant in the Niger Delta. These acts have increased drastically and approximately 20 000 ships that annually transit the Suez Canal are under serious threat from these attacks.
Recent statistics indicate a drastic increase during 2008, whereby 889 hostages were taken, 11 killed, 232 crew member`s injured and 21 missing presumed dead in 263 pirate attacks. A total of 111 attacks have taken place in the Gulf Aden. The hijacking of the Saudi-owned crude oil supertanker Sirius Star late last year that took place 400 miles South East of Mombasa is a clear indication of the daringness and wide area of operation of these pirates.
Despite the combined efforts of international Navies deployed for patrolling and escort duties the affected area of the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden is too large and the deployed naval forces are at a disadvantage because they cannot escort every ship and cannot reach all the attack scenes on time. Currently the necessary Rules of Engagement are available but international legislation is needed to define the legal channels for the prosecution of these perpetrators of piracy.
Statistics provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicates that human trafficking and migrant smuggling affects virtually every country in the world. These activities are however rife in Africa where all 53 nations of the continent have reported human trafficking that is fuelled by poverty, conflict and instability.
A third of these countries reported trafficking of humans to Europe and a quarter to the Middle East and Arab States. Globally this organized crime activity earns 32 billion US dollars per year and 2.7 million are trafficked at any one point every year in 127 countries.
Interpol recently reported that drug trafficking has risen sharply in Africa with West Africa the transit point for cocaine traffickers moving the drugs from Latin America to Europe.
The long and porous borders coupled with inadequate resources make it difficult to conduct law enforcement. Therefore it is important that greater mutual co-operation through exchange of information, collaboration and co-ordination of joint operations is needed to combat drug trafficking on the continent. Cocaine seizures have doubled over the past three years and stood at 6 458 kilograms in 2007 with a staggering 7 000 kilograms seized across West Africa in the last three months.
The illicit small arms and light weapons trade is global and is valued at one billion US dollars or between 10 to 20% of global trade. In regions of Africa this trade is conducted by sea of the inland waters and results in counter development and the conflict situations experienced in our continent.
There have been allegations by a United Nations envoy and other government authorities in Africa that incidents of illegal dumping of nuclear waste by unidentified ships are taking place in the unprotected rivers and seas off certain coasts of Africa. It is alleged that after the 2005 tsunami hundreds of dumped and leaking barrels washed ashore in Somali and resulted in the death of more than 300 people.
We in the Navies clearly understand the importance of the sea to the economic well-being and stability of our countries. However this role dictates that Navies must be adequately equipped and thus be capable of executing this role in their waters. This have come about because historically conflict flash points have been land centric and at intrastate level. Cognizance has not been given to the maritime dimension – the fact that many conflicts originate and are fuelled from the sea and this therefore implies that we must have requisite capabilities to stop them at sea.
In the global world of today there is increased competition for resources. The African continent has an abundance of resources and potential not only on land but also in the sea and below the seabed. Unfortunately many regions experience the threat of exploitation of these resources that result in huge economic losses to the country concerned and sadly to human security factors that could have benefited the citizens of the country.
A lack of capacity and poor maritime governance all give rise to the lack of sea control and results in these criminal activities that plunder and exploit the resources of these nations to the detriment of their suffering people. This poor maritime governance leads to these criminal activities that thrive where there are porous borders and lack of naval forces, and in some cases allow these criminals to operate with impunity.
Poor maritime governance also leads to the inability of certain states to effectively manage natural and manmade disasters when the need for search and rescue, anti pollution operations etc arise in their waters.
To counter these threats countries must therefore take responsibility for ensuring their Navies are able to exercise effective and sustained governance over their maritime domains, and in some cases these are vast sea areas.
At the last symposium in Abuja we discussed co-operation and reached consensus in adopting resolutions to promote4 domain awareness, establish mechanisms to manage maritime matter, improve public awareness and adopt and implement international conventions. The leadership of these Navies will therefore once again have the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest and formulate solutions to the unique challenges experienced on our continent. Hopefully during the course of our discussions we can provide feedback on positive initiatives that are underway to give realizations to our adopted resolutions.
Our resolution must be to devise plans and actions that will demonstrate the readiness of our nations on the continent to unshackle the chains of conflict, hunger, poverty and underdevelopment that plague our continent. We in Africa must find solutions to the challenges we face. If we cannot do it we should not expect others to do it on our behalf.
Taking into account the many challenges our continent faces on a daily basis it is evident that they will only be overcome with credible and adequate naval forces being available to exercise sea control on a continuous basis. Because these threats are trans-national there is a definite requirement for solid co-operation, collaboration exchange of information, intelligence and good co=-ordination for the conducting of joint operations to confront and eliminate these threats at sea.
Colleagues the future and destiny of Africa is in our hands and it will succeed if we all pull in the same direction.
I am however inspired by the countless achievements in many other domains and other spheres of human endeavors – such as our greatest success of our people of the past years in bringing peace and stability in the Great Lakes Region.
What is required is a strong maritime presence to help cement the Africa Agenda and total support to the New Economic Partnership of African Development (NEPAD) programme. The Navies of our continent should be seen as the extension of the Africa Agenda that is aimed a giving our people hope and dreams come true.
After we have interacted over the next few days, we will hopefully leave here with clearer solutions to meet our challenges and the establishment of bonds that will lead to increased co-operation on our continent.
On leaving this symposium we must make a clarion call to our leaders for cognizance and decisive actions to be taken to empower our Navies by ensuring that we have:
- Capabilities required to repel and fight sea robbery, piracy, arms and drug smuggling, human trafficking and poaching; and
- Capabilities that will assist us to respond in the event of natural and manmade disasters.
- Capabilities that will prevent dumping of toxic waste on our continent.
Colleagues, let us roll up our sleeves and get down to work, fully understanding that the task to build the Africa for which we yearn is a common responsibility we al share.
I Thank You