African Nations Working for Maritime Security
By Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen
Special to American Forces Press Service
DJIBOUTI, Jun. 24, 2008 Representatives from 10 East African nations, along with coalition partners from the United Kingdom, France and the United States participated in a week-long working group to help lay a foundation for great partnership in the realm of maritime security.
Members of various nations in Eastern Africa gather for the East African Southwest Indian Ocean Maritime Safety and Security Working Group hosted by Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa to discuss challenges the region faces and possible solutions for the way ahead. U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott D. Cohen, Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Speakers from the various organizations covered a wide range of topics, including strategies for short- and long-term planning, pooling resources, regional cooperation, and security considerations at sea.
The team from Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa organized the event and was the catalyst for bringing these countries together to discuss issues pertaining to the region.
Navy Rear Adm. Philip H. Greene Jr., commander of CJTF-HOA, spoke first about the implication for why maritime security is vital to regional success.
“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together to develop partnerships, as well as to share information and knowledge about our path to improving maritime security and safety in the Horn and Eastern Africa,” he said.
The desired end state is regional security and cooperation to help create a prosperous East Africa, Greene said.
“The importance of maritime security and safety in this region is driven because of the economic challenges that the region faces,” the admiral said. “This is due to criminal activities at sea, trafficking of drugs, smuggling of illegal cargo, trafficking of people, as well as armed robbery and piracy at sea.
“Every country has limited resources to combat these many issues, including the United States,” he continued. “Whether it is money, people or ships, the resources are finite, and talking about the issues candidly allows all of us to tackle the problems within the confines of what we have.”
Navy Capt. James R. Burke, director of the plans and policy directorate for CJTF-HOA, was one of the driving forces behind this workshop. One of the goals he said he hopes eventually will come from these meetings is organizing and pooling resources throughout the region.
“Whenever you build some type of maritime capacity, it is never cheap, and there are limited resources,” Burke said. “What is required is to determine what the threats are and what the nation may need to combat these threats.
“It is not just about equipment, it is also a supporting legal structure,” he continued. “It may also span several agencies -- it could be the military, it could be the navy, its port authorities -- and bringing all those agencies together. It is complex environment, not a simple problem, but one that needs to be tackled.”
A team from the Naval War College, in Newport, R.I., facilitated the small working groups, allowing delegates from the partner nations to discuss openly and candidly the problems each nation faces. Some challenges were common among the region’s nations, but others presented were unique.
One delegate brought up the issue of having an uninformed populace regarding the laws surrounding smuggling. “If they do not know it is wrong, how can you expect them to refrain from doing illegal activities?” was a question posed by one of the attendees.
“Seeing the issues each nation is up against sets a framework for finding solutions in the future,” Burke said. “Because of the limited resources involved, and the overlapping challenges the countries in the region encounter, if they can start thinking about working together to improve the overall security situation, this region in Africa will be one step closer to achieving the goals of the working group.”
Concern for maritime security is not limited to coastal nations, Burke noted. Any nation with waterways has to consider how to provide security on them, he said.
Uganda is a prime example of a land-locked country with maritime security concerns. Lt. Col. Michael Nyayrwa, head of the Uganda People’s Defense Force Maritime Forces, said even though his country is in the interior of Africa, maritime security still plays a role in the overall security of his country.
“We looked at how maritime security and safety strategies could be developed in the workshop, and we came to understand these strategies are not about navies, but about maritime domain awareness,” Nyayrwa said. “It is about partnership, it is about cooperation, it is about countries pooling their resources, sharing information, and all of this is for the economic benefit for the people in this region of Africa.”
He went on to say the problems of piracy and illegal fishing have an untold cost to the people as a whole and it is in the interests of everyone to work together to battle these forces.
“High crimes on our water bodies have transcended national borders, and coming together of various countries will engender prosperity of all the peoples in eastern Africa,” he said.
“The framework is being laid for better regional maritime safety and security in the region,” Burke said. “Ultimately, it will be up to everyone to step up and deliver on the goals talked about here.”
(Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Cohen serves with Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.)