African Union adopts charter on piracy, illegal fishing

The African Union on Saturday adopted an agreement on piracy, illegal fishing and maritime security at a summit in Togo.

“We are happy to announce the adoption and signing of a charter on maritime security and safety and development in Africa,” Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said, hailing an “historic” decision that would boost economic and social development.

Nguesso said 43 of the AU’s 54 members — 38 of which have a coastline — adopted the summit text, which is binding.

It commits signatories to environmental protection and act on maritime crime as well as trafficking in drugs, arms and people.

The text also commits signatories to creating national and regional institutions “to promote maritime security.”

Togo’s foreign minister, Robert Dussey, told AFP ahead of the meeting there was a clear need to join forces on policy, indicating the stakes were “very high” amid an upsurge of piracy in recent years, spreading from the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia, to the Gulf of Guinea, which is now a hotspot for piracy.

Dussey said maritime security was paramount for African development, not just given the threat from piracy and illegal fishing depleting a key resource but the threat from environmental degradation.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose country has suffered from insecurity in the Gulf of Aden, praised the outcome of the meeting as a display of Africa’s ability to put together a continent-wide strategy.

So-called maritime economic activity in Africa covers 13 million square kilometres (five million square miles), equivalent to a 17 percent world share.

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