African leaders plan joint piracy response

Lome - African leaders will meet later this year in Togo to discuss drawing up a continental charter against maritime piracy, the country's authorities have announced.

Foreign minister Robert Dussey said on Tuesday night that heads of state and government from the African Union would be in the capital Lomé in November to discuss the problem.

"The Lomé summit aims at defining a common strategy against maritime insecurity in Africa," Dussey told reporters.

"At least 205 attacks on ships were registered in the Gulf of Guinea between 2005 and May 2015. Togo's coasts saw eight attacks, of which seven were foiled by the country's navy."

The minister said the successful adoption of Africa's first ever strategy against pirates would be put before the United Nations Security Council.

At present, only a handful of national, bilateral and regional initiatives are in place to fight piracy, which has taken off in West Africa in recent years.

Unlike in east Africa, where pirates have demanded ransoms, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea generally steal cargo, especially oil.

In June 2013, central and West African leaders agreed on a regional strategy against pirates to tackle the problem.

Military chiefs from Benin, Niger, Nigeria and Togo decided to set up a centre for maritime coordination in August that year.

Nigeria is the worst affected by piracy on the high seas. In 2012, 45% of attacks recorded in the Gulf of Guinea were in Nigerian waters.

In 2011, it launched an operation with neighbour Benin to conduct patrols off the countries' coasts.

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