The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), and the government of Ghana welcomed government officials and experts in maritime law to the Trans-Atlantic Maritime Criminal Justice Workshop for ECOWAS Zone F Countries in Accra, Ghana, on June 4-6, 2013.
The three-day event provided a venue for representatives from various agencies responsible for maritime safety and security to evaluate the relationship between maritime crime and related criminal justice gaps and capacity building in West Africa.
Speaking on behalf of Vice Admiral Quashie, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, Rear Admiral G.M. Biekro, Ghana’s Chief of Naval Staff stressed the severity of the problem. Maritime threats in the Gulf of Guinea, he said, are a growing concern for Africa as a whole in a foreseeable future. “No single country possesses the capacity, in terms of expertise and resources, to single-handedly deal with the threat,” he said. “This is unfortunately even much more so in respect of African countries generally.”
In the keynote address, Dr. Assis Malaquias, Academic Chair for Defense Economics at the Africa Center stressed the importance of capacity building for the maritime criminal justice network both in West Africa and on the continent as a whole. The workshop in Accra, he said, will narrow its scope on “bilateral and multilateral law enforcement and judicial assistance on programs that can achieve measurable, sustainable improvements in West African maritime security as well as improve on efforts to coordinate law enforcement training and assistance not only in West Africa, but across the trans-Atlantic region.”
“We are all in the same boat,” said Ambassador Gene A. Cretz, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. “Maritime security is an area where the United States and all the governments represented here have a shared interest,” he insisted. “We all want to advance sustained economic growth and development, ensure the free movement of goods, protect the environment, support port security and infrastructure, combat illegal fishing, bolster the extractive industry sector, and address illicit transnational activities.”
“Without a doubt, maritime insecurity is a threat to national and regional stability, security, and economic growth,” he said.
Ambassador Cretz also said it is vital that goals and responsibilities be mapped out clearly, which will require interagency cooperation and collaboration. “It is crucial that maritime security actors, alongside other government agencies, tackle corruption aggressively,” he said. “Failure to do so undermines what various agencies are trying to achieve individually and collectively.”
The workshop in Accra examined the multidimensional nature of maritime security challenges and the implications of maritime insecurity. The goal was to provide West Africa coastal states’ law enforcement and criminal justice sectors, as well as officials from the Economic Community of African States (ECOWAS), with best practices in maritime security.
This workshop is the third in a series of meetings that focus on building capacity in the maritime criminal justice sector. Two workshops have already been completed for ECOWAS Zones E and G countries in 2013.
The ECOWAS Zone F countries include: Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea; however, representatives from Guinea were not present at the workshop. The nation of Togo is not a Zone F country but did participate in the workshop.
ACSS is the pre-eminent institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 14 years, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in over 200 ACSS programs.