Fighting rising piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

Although strategies to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea already exist, countries need to navigate the many pitfalls that hinder implementation, according to Barthélemy Blédé, Senior Researcher, Peace Operations and Peacebuilding Division, ISS Dakar.

Speaking at a workshop organised by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, held in Abidjan from 14th to 17th February, Blédé said that “the Gulf of Guinea, which has been Africa’s main maritime piracy hotspot since 2011, could become the world’s most piracy-affected area”.

Although global figures of piracy and armed robbery had declined significantly last year to 191 cases, the lowest level since 1998, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded 55 attacks or attempted attacks in West and Central Africa – including 36 for Nigeria. The Gulf of Guinea accounted for more than half of the kidnappings for ransom in 2016.

This year has not seen a good start for maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. At least five piracy incidents were recorded in January and February 2017: two in Sierra Leone and three in Nigeria.

When he assumed office in 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari declared war on insecurity in general – and placed the Niger Delta and sea piracy among his priorities. However, Buhari extended the amnesty programme granted to former pirates in August 2009 by then president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, which was extended in 2010 by his successor Goodluck Jonathan. A possible solution proposed at the Abidjan workshop was for an increased implementation of integrated national maritime strategies.