West African officials call for greater UN involvement in fight against piracy
Top West African officials are calling for greater United Nations and international support to prevent the region’s coasts from becoming a haven for pirates and to fight growing drug and arms trafficking
“The evils of drug trafficking, piracy, trafficking of illicit goods and arms trafficking have reared their ugly heads across the sub-region,” Gambian Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy told the General Assembly at the start of the fifth day of its annual general debate. “The nature and extent of these crimes call for swift international action to nip them in the bud before it is too late.
“As these crimes feed on each other and sow the seeds of terror, economic sabotage and the collapse of social order, we must pool our resources together in the areas of detection, surveillance, law enforcement and prosecution in order to deny the culprits safe havens.
“In order to do this, we must come together and agree on a framework for cooperation with the support of the international community. We look forward to greater United Nations engagement with regional and subregional leaders and organizations in stamping out these menaces.”
Togolese Prime Minister Gilbert Fossoun-Houngbo referred to recent acts of piracy off the coasts of Togo and Benin. “At a time when the West African region is witnessing a resurgence of violence due to drugs and terrorism, our coasts cannot be allowed to be taken hostage by pirates,” he told the Assembly on Saturday, calling for closer cooperation between all countries to confront the new phenomenon.
“The crises and conflicts, the threats to international peace and security, such as piracy, cyber-crime and drug trafficking, which undermine efforts to consolidate peace in the world, must impel the international community to rethink the UN role in the context of security and economic and social development.”
At the end of last month the Security Council voiced concern over increasing piracy, armed robbery and reported hostage-taking in the Gulf of Guinea, saying the crimes were having an adverse impact on security, trade and other economic activities in the sub-region.
Mr. Fossoun-Houngbo also called for urgent UN and international steps to confront the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa where tens of thousands of people have already starved to death and 13.3 million people are threatened.
Both officials called for reform of the 15-member Security Council, expanding it and making it more representative of the regions of the world and correct what Mr. Fossoun-Houngbo called “flagrant and unacceptable injustices,” and Ms. Njie-Saidy termed “the glaring under-representation of Africa.”
“Africa needs to be adequately and properly represented and we will not give up on what is a very legitimate demand. What is even more appalling is that negotiations are progressing at snail’s pace,” she said, stressing that reform is long overdue, “and the lack of it is undermining the credibility of the organ and the legitimacy of its decisions.”
Other African leaders also highlighted the vital role the UN has to play in settling conflicts and promoting development.
Ugandan Vice-President Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi called on the UN and international community to strengthen support to Somalia in terms of capacity building for the Transitional Federal Institutions (TFIs) and in providing funding and logistical assistance for the deployment of 3,000 additional troops for the African Union peacekeeping mission there.
Noting that peace initiatives should be led by the region with strong support from regional organizations, the UN and other relevant actors, he stressed that preventive mediation is a worthwhile investment, costing much less compared to other undertakings such as peacekeeping or peace enforcement and averting unnecessary wars with their loss of life and property.
Foreign Minister Henri Eyebe Ayissi of Cameroon cited the UN intervention in Sudan which helped forge the peaceful secession of South Sudan as an illustration of “the irreplaceable and decisive role that we desire to see the UN play in direct correlation with the fundamental aims and objectives of its founding Charter.”
It is within this framework that the role of mediation in settling conflicts, the theme of this year’s general debate, assumes its full importance, he added.
Vice President Mompati S. Merafhe of Botswana voiced appreciation to the UN and the international community for their response to recent disasters such as the tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan and the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, calling it generous and timely.
He also highlighted the growing collaboration between the UN and regional organizations in dealing with conflicts and the institutionalization of conflict prevention and resolution mechanisms around the world.