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Research Report

Responding to Insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea

Copyright Date: Jul. 1, 2014
Pages: 20

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[i])
  2. (pp. [ii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)

    The Gulf of Guinea has become notorious for its violent conflicts and political instability. This insecurity has its origins in bad governance, corruption, and failures of social and economic development. Violent power struggles and competition for the control of economic assets periodically cause crises to flare up, and these tend to be persistent and widespread. The international community has worked to move countries in the region onto a stable trajectory. West Africa has also made efforts to develop a coordinated approach to the region’s challenges through a common security architecture. Such subregional initiatives may ultimately prove most conducive to long-term...

  4. (pp. 1-3)

    The arbitrary division of territory by the colonial powers in the Gulf of Guinea led to a number of disputes among the new African states following their independence, such as those between Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana; Benin and Burkina Faso; Guinea and Sierra Leone; and Niger, Nigeria, and Cameroon. There has been no full-fledged interstate war in the Gulf of Guinea region in the post-independence period, but internal instability has produced civil wars that have caused between half a million and million deaths:

    Nigeria experienced a civil war from 1967 to 1970, also known as the Biafran War.

    Liberia’s civil...

  5. (pp. 3-7)

    Confronted by this insecurity, the international community has sought to put an end to crises and move countries that have emerged from crisis onto a stable trajectory. Subregional organizations and more recently the African Union have also made efforts to develop security frameworks for addressing challenges to stability. These initiatives may be less visible to the international community, but they are likely to be more promising in the long term if the region is to achieve stability.

    Since 2005, West Africa has demanded the attention of the United States, which initially expected to meet 25 percent of its hydrocarbon needs...

  6. (pp. 7-9)

    “Active” or “operational” prevention (to employ ECOWAS’s vocabulary), is supposed to prevent a state falling into crisis, but it has never worked effectively in the Gulf of Guinea. In most of its countries, with the approach of a crisis, the signals have always been too weak or confused to justify the kind of national or international action that could prevent it. Few experts saw the Ivoirian or Malian crises coming, and among those who did, even fewer dared to sound the alarm for fear of igniting the fire.

    Technical military assistance is among the best managed of aid programs in...

  7. (pp. 10-10)

    It will take time for lasting stability in the Gulf of Guinea to come about, and then only if we can count on African solutions.

    The priority should be the establishment of a subregional security sector that is effective and economical, free from distinctions between internal and external forces, clear of obstacles erected by regional boundaries, especially along the coast. Each national security system should be organized to cooperate with its counterparts in neighboring countries and with the justice system of its own country. Its most important mission will be the pursuit of the disarmament and demobilization of combatants, and...

  8. (pp. 10-15)

    There have been many studies of threats to the security of West and Central Africa, and to the Gulf of Guinea in particular, and many proposals for tackling them. The best of these ideas have been taken up by ECOWAS in its conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms, and some have also been taken up by ECCAS. More recently, the African Union initiated cooperation with ECCAS and the GGC.

    Consequently, the recommendations made here are limited to those that are essential to avoid worst-case scenarios, prevent the situation from deteriorating further, and facilitate the provision of widespread and lasting security. They...

  9. (pp. 16-16)