THE African continent is comprised of 53 countries, of which 38 have a coastline while 15 are landlocked countries.  Over the past decade, African countries have done a lot on port management reforms, but they have overlooked the development of maritime and port security.

It is sad to note that between 1993 and 2005 there has been a total of 707 piracy incidents in the region.  Out of these, 454 were actual attacks while 193 were attempted attacks.

Andrew Mwangura
Programs Coordinator
Seafarers’ Assistance Program.


In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, there have been heavy deployments of navy frigates to police the volatile Gulf and the western Indian Ocean region.

Frigates have been deployed to counter the smuggling of weaponry, contraband oil, goods and people around the Gulf and the Western Indian Ocean region, as part of the coalition   task force 150 and operation enduring freedom.

During the operations, the ships’ crew used to board from small dhows to large container ships to inspect cargo, manifests and registration.

This is because suspects implicated in bombing the US Embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi are said to originate from Zanzibar , Comoros , Lamu and Mombasa .

Apart from maritime security in Africa , there is a need for a better understanding to be developed about the nature of religious dissent and how it impacts on stability and state security. In addition to that, more attention needs to be focused on state terrorism and on the often-undermining impact that counter terrorism measures undertaken by states have on human rights.


Armed pirates seized a Panamian MV Fiesty gas carrier after responding to a bogus distress flare from a small merchant vessel.

The ill-fated ship was hijacked on April 10,2005 off the Somali coast while underway to the UAE from Mombasa .

The gunmen demanded US$315,000 ransom before they could release the vessel and her 17 crewmen.

The Hong Kong based owners of the vessel International Gas carriers appointed an agent in Mombasa .

On or about April 18th 2005, the ship owner wired money to a local shipping company through a bank in Mombasa , where Kenya also its representative.

The Hong Kong agent met the representatives of the gunmen in various locations in Mombasa and paid ransom money in the following installments:

April 20, 2005 US $ 150,000.00
April 22, 2005 US $ 150,000.00
April 25, 2005 US $ 15,000.00

Eastern European crew of the oil tanker MT African Pride were held captive for two years in a notoriously harsh Nigerian jail accused of oil smuggling.

In 2003, the Nigerian Navy detained Seafarers from Russia , Romania and Georgia for allegedly trying to smuggle crude oil from the African country.

It is said that 100,000 barrels of oil are being lost each day to pirates operating at sea off Nigeria .

We must move swiftly to deal with the problem of pirates before it reaches a level that makes Africa ’s ports unattractive destinations.

We face major challenges such as poaching, piracy, human and drug trafficking, stowaways, hijackings, IUU fishing and other forms of crime at sea.

The modern day pirates of the high seas are infact illegal fishermen with operations estimates at US $ 1.2 billion.

In Somalia , annual value of IUU and pirate fishing in EEZ is US $ 90 million.

The IMO should also suggest appropriate remedial measures that governments in those areas might take.

1993 and 1994 IMO decision to send missions to the Malacca straits and the South China Sea resulted in a marked decline in the number of armed attacks particularly those involving murder and serious injury.

The lack of central government in Somalia and the end of cold war is a key contributing factor in the rise of piracy. Now that powerful nations’ navies police strategic waterways less stringently, pirates are more easily able to launch raids on defenceless cargo ships.

In early 1990s, Somali pirates posed as officers of a law enforcement agency in order to get on board ships, beginning by issuing verbal warnings and then scrutinize vessels with automatic weapon, which can escalate the use of mortars.

Once they’ve stopped a ship, the pirates either hijack it or steal its cargo. Mostly they are after money and supplies such as fuel, lube oil, stores and provisions.

What a disgrace to note that pirates in West African ports are blatant and strangely there is complete lack of any response or interest from the security services or police.

It hurts very much to say that gangs are in cahoots with stevedores in West African ports.


The problem of illegal seeking passage to migrate to Europe from Africa is growing.

In recent years there has been an upsurge in the number of immigrants from north and the horn of Africa trying to enter Spain and Yemen illegally.

In one incident involving such illegal early (2005) this year, up to (10) ten people drowned and around 25 were missing after a motor boat carrying illegal immigrants sank off Tarrifa in southern Spain .

In another incident involving such illegal, a total of 26 people drowned and around 12 were missing after a motorboat carrying illegal immigrants sank off Yemen coast mid last year 2004.

Tough action against ship owners and masters has led in minority of cases to abuse of stowaways once found and even in extreme cases, incidents where stowaways have been thrown overboard.

Another problem is that, there are no internationally agreed regulations on stowaways and different countries have different rules.  It hurts to note that stowaways are often detained on board for months and even years.

There is a need for the master, crew and ship owner to treat stowaways in a humane and fair way.  There is also a need to ensure that any agreed International regulations do not involve ships’ personnel in acting a “quasi” immigration officer”.  Such responsibilities must remain with the port and the flag state.

There is also a need to keep accurate records of the time and circumstances under which the stowaways were discovered.  While obtaining the stowaways’ name, address and nationality, the ships master should not interrogate the person who may have suffered a great deal and be traumatized.

The stowaway should not be force to work on board ship unless they want to, in which case they should be trained and fairly paid for the job.  Given that there is a growing number of economic migrants and asylum seekers, we suggest that any internationally binding instruments dealing with stowaways should require the country of first scheduled port of disembarkation after their discovery to take responsibility.

Currently 175 million people reside in a country other than where they were born. A half a million illegal immigrants who enter Europe each year, one fourth come via Spain .  The main entry point to Spain is the strait of Gibraltar , where the rough waters, claim the lives of many would be asylum seekers.

Last year (2004), Spain police intercepted some 14,000 illegal immigrants and 663 illegal vessels.  Spain ’s long coast and proximity to North Africa makes it attractive to people smugglers.  The main entry points are Barbate, Algericas, Gibraltar and Malaga .

Another entry point to Europe from Africa is Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island north of Tunisia and Libya and south of Sicily .  Lampedusa is situated some 125 miles south East of Sicily and just over 60 miles north of Tunisia .

More than 5,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe since 1996.  Two million people have moved towards the North African Coast in the hope of being able to reach Europe via Italy by boat.

Most come to Libya from West Africa, the horn of Africa and East Africa through Chad , Niger and Sudan .  Total number of undocumented aliens currently residing in Libya is about 600,000, in Germany is 1.5 million, 300,000 are in Italy , while France has 400,000 inside its boarders. There are also 12 million undocumented aliens currently residing in South Africa .

This includes both people from neigbouring southern Africa countries, East Africa, West Africa, the horn of Africa, Central Africa and more distant countries such as Mexico , Brazil , China , Pakistan , India and Eastern European countries.

Many stowaways immigrate to other countries before boarding Ocean going vessels to Europe . Sources of stowaways are: Tanzania , Kenya , Morocco , Nigeria , Ghana and Guinea .

Areas affected by migrant stowaways are: Mozambique , Algeria , Ivory Coast and South Africa .  Tanzanians and Kenyans travel to South Africa through Mozambique and Zimbabwe .

Nigeria and Ghana stowaways often travel away from their homelands before boarding Ocean going vessels.  Morocco and Algeria are used as paths for Stowaways traveling towards the Mediterranean and Europe and people smuggling is rife in the area. Turkey acts as a magnet to migrants and stowaways trying to illegal enter Europe .

Small Arms

About 30 million light weapons are in circulation in sub-Saharan Africa .  Such weapons are Africa ’s primary tools used in armed conflicts to kill and maim.  They have also contributed to a rise in the incidence and lethality of criminality, the erosion of social services and a decline in economic activities across the continent.

Approximately 3 million people have been killed by the use of small arms in Sub-Saharan Africa.  It is believed that 79% of small arms and light weapons are in the hands of civilians 19% in police and military hands, while 2% are with armed groups and insurgents.

Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered more that any other region in the world on the devastation effects of illicit small arms and light weapons.  About 20% of the continents population experienced civil wars during the 1990s.

The horn of Africa is flooded with small arms more than any other region on the continent.

Proliferation of illicit small arms is cross-cutting issue, stemming largely from lack of proper regulations and inability of African governments to exercise their authority.

Despite the fact that there are laws to control arms influx, governments are unable to enforce these laws.  Illicit arms have caused untold human suffering in Africa .  Many economies have been hit hard by this problem due to insecurity.

Drug trafficking

Africa particularly Morocco is a major source of Cannabis found in illicit markets in the region.  About 60% of the World’s seizures of Cannabis resin commonly known as “hashish” come from Morocco .

In Comoros , Ethiopia , Kenya , Madagascar , Uganda and Tanzania cannabis herb or Marijuana constitutes a significant commercial crop with the sizes of cultivation reportedly increasing in some areas as prices for agricultural products declines.

Cocaine drug traffickers have moved their operations to the West African Coast to avoid law enforcement in Spain and Portugal .  Heroin continues to enter West and East Africa from Asia creating regional trafficking hubs.

Ivory coast , Kenya , Mauritius , Morocco , Mozambique , South Africa and Tanzania all report increase heroin use.  Kenya is the entry point for illicit drugs into and through East Africa, showing that Kenya is being used as a hub for international drug trafficking.

Terrorism / Political Dissent

The post cold war period has witnessed an increase in conflicts within a number of African countries along ethnic, religious or tribal lines.

The continent has been undergoing a process of political transition from colonial, totalitarian and authoritarian rule to more democratic political systems, often accompanied by considerable turmoil.

Religious dissent, mainly in the north and the east of the continent, has sometimes contributed to the instability experienced during these periods of transition.  The liberation struggles that were fought against colonialism constituted a form of dissent and were primarily aimed at the colonial power.

Since the end of colonialism, governments and their citizens have been confronted by new forms of legitimate as well as illegitimate dissent often fuelled by a desire for control over political power or ideological, ethnic and religious movements.

A better understanding needs to be developed about the nature of religious dissent and how it impacts on stability and state security.

In addition, more attention needs to be focused on state terrorism and on the often undermining impact that counter terrorism measures undertaken by states have on human rights.

In Africa , the threat of transnational terrorism is a reality, but state terrorism and the implementation of democratic principles present even greater challenges.  Dissent has often led to violence and to acts associated with terrorism.

Global Terrorism

When violence erupted in Somalia in 1991, the world watched with detached interest.

The US sent troops to buttress the out-gunned UN peace-keepers dispatched earlier. But by then, the patient was too sick for treatment and both the UN and US missions were recalled in a hurry.

After that humiliation, the world once again turned a blind eye on Somalia .  It was only after the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in East Africa and the November 2005 piracy attack on MV Seabourne Spirit that the world woke up to the dangers posed by the stateless country.

Intelligence reports indicate that Somalia is becoming the base for International terrorists.  It is said that European al-Qaeda cells have operation bases in Somalia and that it uses Somalia to expand operation bases into Kenya , Ethiopia , Eritrea and Uganda .

Somalia tops the charts as the biggest threat to Maritime security.  If unchecked, the threat could spread all the way from Oman to Durban .

Somalia is also a threat to world security.  Already, Somalia is linked to July 2005 bombing in London where two of the culprits were two Somalis with British passports.

Somalia was the planning base for the august 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam , and the 2002 terror attack on Mombasa ’s Paradise Hotel.

One can purchase any weapon from a pistol to a rocket launcher in Bakaraaha arms market, Somalia in broad daylight and at a reasonable price.  Forged Somali passports are also available at as little as US $ 10.

Passport manufacture and sale of weapons are the most vibrant concerns in Somalia .  Terrorist cells have been taking advantage of the instability and unmanageable borders of horn of Africa countries to spread their tentacles.

They are already active in Ethiopia and Eritrea .  The situation might get worse should the two countries go to war as they are threatening to do.  Terrorist cells are also likely to take advantage of security loopholes in other horn of Africa countries.

It hurts to note that nobody is talking about the need to facilitate the installation of a government in Somalia .  Installing a government in the stateless Somalia is the first and most important step in dismantling terrorist cells, sea piracy and IUU fishing in the western Indian Ocean region.

The international community should come in to contain the terrorist threat posed by Somalia . The international community should also help countries in the horn of Africa to mount interim measures to counter terrorism.

This should include the capacity to keep tabs on terrorist activities and to pre-empt them.

Dec. 2005


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