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Piracy Is Caused By Poverty, Joblessness 

Interviewed by Yerima Kini Nsom, Nformi Sonde Kinsai & Nadege Sama Lekungha

CameroonPostline.com — Associate Professor of Political Science in Yaounde University II, Soa, Paul Ndue Ntungwe, says piracy is linked to poverty and joblessness. He believes that no country can single-handedly fight piracy.

In this interview with The Post ahead of the Heads of State Summit on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea that opens at the Yaounde Conference Centre this June 24, Prof. Ndue also talks about the economic impact of maritime insecurity, what is expected from the Yaounde Summit and what Cameroon stands to gain for hosting the Summit. Excerpts:

The Post: Cameroon is preparing to host a very important summit on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, what should the common man understand by that and why is this geographical setting peculiar?

Paul Ndue Ntungwe: Let me start by saying that we had the First and Second World Wars with a lot of tension, but we are moving towards new threats called piracy, which are now both at the local, national and international level. We have had a lot of piracy elsewhere, however our focus actually is on the Gulf of Guinea.

What is the Gulf of Guinea?

The Gulf of Guinea is made up of a number of countries that produce a lot of oil and gas. They also produce a lot of cocoa, coffee and timber. These are the kind of natural resources that the world market needs. And, of course, there are a lot of ships that come to the Gulf of Guinea to collect these raw materials and send to North America and other countries.

What is the incidence of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea?

There is a lot of insecurity because of the amount of poverty which is growing today in our sub region, and, of course, there are people who cannot make money. There are people who get people on board the ship and ask for money, and there are others who don’t want money. They want the natural products so they get ships, siphon oil out of those ships and sell them in local markets to enrich themselves.

What is the bearing of maritime insecurity on Cameroon?

It has an impact here in Cameroon and out of Cameron. First of all, it would reduce maritime activities in Cameroon and elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea where many countries are concerned. Of course, Europeans and North Americans are worried because they may not have goods or the natural resources that are expected on time or they may not even have them at all because ship owners may not want to take the risk.

How is poverty a cause of this insecurity?

These activities have been embraced for centuries especially because so many people who were in the navy lost their jobs. They easily transformed themselves into pirates. People in many countries in this region complain that they are not benefiting from the oil wealth so they have to use force to seize tankers, siphon all the oil and sell to make money.

What is the economic impact of the maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea?

If you take the example of Benin, where the income is earned from taxing the ships that come in there, you will understand it well. They have lost more than 70 percent of their activities because of piracy. Ships can no longer come in. So, you will imagine that it has a lot of impact on Benin now; even Nigeria lost much of its maritime activities. I hear they lose about 13 percent every year because of attacks by pirates. The government of Nigeria loses so much money and if they had all that money they will be able to develop their country and help the poor.

Would you say poverty is generally some kind of insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea?

Yes, poverty can lead to insecurity. Take, for example, Bakassi in Cameroon. Cameroon has been attacked a number of times by pirates because they don’t have that freedom anymore to move and get oil and sell on the local markets. So, we have put in place the BIR (Rapid Intervention Battalion) that is reducing the activities of those fellows on the Bakassi peninsula. This would mean that they will not have money any more and you know they easily move. They can now move to another zone, which is not well protected, in order to continue to enrich themselves.

So, you are saying that BIR has actually ensured safety in the maritime zone?

Yes, BIR has reduced insecurity in the area; however we cannot completely eliminate pirate activities. No country can fight piracy alone. That is why this international conference is bringing people together at the local, regional and international levels to find ways of curbing piracy in our area.

What is the geopolitical importance of Cameroon in the Gull of Guinea?

Cameroon produces a number of items that pirates need; they produce a lot of oil and gas and a lot of timber and cocoa pass through the Gulf of Guinea. And, now, we are moving in to the mining sector, which means that in the next 5 to 20 years; Cameroon will be into a lot of mining of gold and diamond. So, these are things that the pirates want and Cameroon is at the centre of the activities in the Gulf of Guinea.

What are we expecting from the Summit?

We expect that participants will put together strategies that will reduce piracy for example. They started off in the Straits of Malaka where the various governments came together and put in place focal points or sites where information could be exchanged among themselves to say they were attacked here, at this time, what goods were taken, what actions were taken by the sailors and so on. So, that information is very helpful and can reduce piracy.

What are some incidents of piracy that have taken place in Cameroon?

Piracy has taken place onshore and offshore in Cameroon, for example, in Bakassi, in Limbe and Kribi. The other time pirates came from the sea and attacked Amity Bank in Limbe and Eco Bank in Douala. You see, when they don’t find the products at sea, they will move offshore and start attacking banks.

What is Cameroon going to gain by hosting this summit?

By hosting, Cameroon is going to serve as a focal point, because we already have a focal point in Asia, Djibouti. In that position Cameroon is able to talk and even advise counties that might not be aware of the problems. Cameroon might also be in the position to coordinate the activities of the sub regional organisation.

First published in The Post print edition no 01441

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