The human side of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

According to Joseph De Maistre “Toute nation a le gouvernement qu'elle mérite" (every nation gets the government it deserves. It may not be far-fetched to infer that every generation also gets the pirates it deserves.


By Bem Ibrahim Garba

As old as the concept of piracy is, there is a lot about it that makes it a modern-day phenomenon. With budgetary cuts to military spending and global trade on the rise, it has become difficult for navies to reach and cover hotspots.

From January 2021 and beyond, there is a need to deeply re-evaluate our approach to the narratives and the measures deployed to resolving and managing this issue.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen that the call for military action against piracy by foreign governments, international shipping, and other interested stakeholders has intensified. These calls are justified as they are the outcome of increased attacks on foreign-owned shipping interests and innocent seafarers doing their best to ensure that we all get our food, medical, and energy requirements delivered to us without disruption.

These calls are all targeted at protecting global trade and economic interests. They are lacking in consideration for the humane side of piracy.

Nobody seems to be talking about the situation ashore within the coastal communities and how this contributes to the problem.

One of the major causes of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is extreme poverty. Extreme poverty within coastal communities has forced criminal elements to combine forces, coordinating themselves into pirate syndicates, giving them greater abilities to control territory, acquire hardware and manage their financial operations, etc. The syndicates give them a structure that better positions them to launch more complex attacks, and coordinate the disappearance of kidnapped seafarers ashore, effectively holding them hostage within coastal communities.

There is a need for us to expand our search for solutions to include work and advocacy within the coastal communities.

Foreign governments (like the Danish and Norwegian governments), international shipping companies (like Maersk, and Hapag, etc.), and other stakeholders that have recently called for military measures should expand the scope of their calls to include non-military actions as well.

They should intensify the call on concerned governments within the Gulf of Guinea to engage with coastal communities to help these communities take charge of these problems. African communities are generally known for the ability to manage their problems. If these communities are capable stakeholders and they should be involved in finding solutions. They know what to do to manage their children.

While military measures may provide a short to medium term deterrent to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the real power to find sustainable long-term solutions lie in the hands of the Gulf State governments and the coastal communities.

“We need to explore a more human approach to anty-piracy, and we need to expand the dialogue”. BEM IBRAHIM GARBA fimc,cmc MD/CEO GOG Marine Ltd.


This article is published by the courtesy of GOG Marine.

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