Togo not the first Maritime Security Summit in Africa
Contrary to a headline by TheCable.ng in its June 7 2016 edition that Togo would be holding the first Maritime Security Summit in Africa, Odimegwu Onwumere authoritatively reports that there has been Maritime Security Summits in Africa before now. One June 7 2016, TheCable.ng, an online Nigerian news platform published an article with the title, "Togo to hold first Maritime Security Summit in Africa".
Opening the first line, the TheCable.ng wrote, "The first summit on maritime security in Africa will hold in Lome, capital of Togo in October. The summit is to be hosted by the Togolese President, Faure Gnassingbe."
It went further to quote the organisers of the summit, saying, “The summit on maritime security and development in Africa will take strong and encouraging decisions to restrict the scope of bandits operating with impunity in African waters and the indulgence of human trafficking through smugglers.”
TheCable.ng was misleading with its claim
The October 2016 anticipated Togolese maritime security summit will not be the first in Africa. The African Union Commission expert’s workshop to review and finalise the draft 2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Security and Strategy had held on Tuesday 20th December 2011, within the framework of “towards the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy”.
Mr. Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of the AU Commission as at the time, said, "The efforts, all undertaking to advance shared cross-cutting maritime safety and security, are essential to efficiently and effectively addressing some of the most important issues face in Africa, in the context of this inter-reliant complex world. In our interconnected world, the human family can not enjoy security without development and cannot enjoy development without security.”
There was “The East African Maritime Security Summit” from 17th-19th February 2015 in Djibouti, Horn of Africa. The Hybrid Marine, a maritime news platform reported as at the time, saying, “The East African Maritime Security Summit – seeks to reassess the maritime security situation in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.”
On March 14 2016, Major General Muhammadu Buhari departed Abuja, the Nigeria's seat of power, for Malabo to hold talks with President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea on further measures to protect the people and resources of the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea, especially in the ocean.
"The major outcome of the meeting will be the conclusion and signing of an agreement by both countries for the establishment of a combined maritime policing and security patrol committee," reported Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye of Daily Sun, Abuja.
The Hybrid Marine, further highlighted, “The East African Maritime Security Summit” hinged on utilising the 2009 Djibouti Code of Conduct “regarding 'The Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden' as a framework, the conference will examine lessons learned over the past 5 years and develop strategies for future cooperation in broader areas of maritime security beyond piracy.”
See the first sets of Maritime Security Summits in Africa
There was the Yaoundé, Cameroon June 24-25, 2013-Summit of Heads of State and Government on Maritime Safety and Security in the Gulf of Guinea.
"Thirteen (13) other AU Member States responded present at this summit. Among these countries were Angola, Burundi, Cape-Verde, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Gambia (represented by their Vice President), Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone (most of them were represented at Ministerial level)," according to a report by African Union (AU) 2013.
The source added, "Representatives from the ECOWAS, ECCAS and CGG were also present at this Summit. The United Nations sent representatives while observers flew in from Belgium, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States of America."
There was the Lomé, the Togolese capital, extraordinary summit of African heads of state on maritime security and development in Africa devised from 2nd to the 7th November 2015. The Foreign Minister of Togo Robert Dussey told an International Peace Institute (IPI) audience, “We need right now the charter, the binding text, about the insecurity in African coasts. We hope during the summit, we will have this text, this charter, because we need this charter for our development.”
The 2015 maritime security summit tagged “extraordinary summit”, the leaders of the African states had during the 23rd Summit of the African Union held in Malabo in June 2014, adopted it.
IPI said that on July 25 2015, the African Union observed its first ‘Day of Seas and Oceans’ and kicked off the “Decade of African Seas.”
Téte António, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, spoke about the cultural history of oceans in Africa, and why he feels “promotion of the sea” is a particularly important part of the agenda.
“I think it is really a turning point to discuss seas in Africa,” he said, noting that people used to see the sea, “as a dangerous place which swallowed so many Africans.”
A text with the title “People’s summit on maritime security and the protection of migrants in africa” published by Visions Solidaires, confirming the 2015 summit, reported, “The Togolese civil society invites all the organisations of the African civil society and migrant support organisations from all the other continents to join us in Togo from the 5th to the 7th November 2015 in order to put pressure on the African leaders so that the future African Union charter takes full account of the rescue and protection of migrants on all the seas and oceans of Africa.
“The people’s summit will bring together migrants, fishermen, and association and trade union activists and will be marked by active advocacy for greater consideration of migrant protection in the African Union charter for maritime security at the Conference for Heads of State. A huge march in tribute to all the migrants who have lost their lives at sea will be organised on the 7th November to incite the African heads of state to react more energetically with regard to this subject.”
Further confirmation that the planned 2016 Maritime Security Summit on October 15 2016 will not be the first in Africa
A press statement made available on June 5, 2015 by African Press Organization (APO), stated, "From November 2nd-7th, 2015, the heads of State of the African Union will meet in Lomé to discuss cooperation on issues of maritime security as well as the maritime domain as a factor of economic development for the continent, which has 38 coastal countries."
The Togolese Government, as at the time, through Prime Minister Arthème Kwesi Ahoomey-Zunu and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Robert Dussey, “reiterated its commitment to make this Summit a success and the starting point of a new reflection on the practical, legal, and financial means to make the African maritime domain a development tool.”
The statement further said that the conference also “marked the launch of the Summit website which will offer all the information around this major continental event which will bring together 54 African countries and their partners.”
Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State.