On June 24 and 25, 2013, Cameroon hosted the first ever summit of heads of state and government of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Gulf of Guinea Commission (GGC) in Yaoundé, the country’s capital. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), based in Washington, D.C., helped set the groundwork for the historic gathering, and members of ACSS attended the summit.
Twenty five heads of state and government from the continent, along with representatives and international maritime security experts, attended the gathering to discuss maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The meeting in Yaoundé was the pinnacle of a process that started in 2010, under the leadership of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies [ACSS] and the U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM],” said Dr. Assis Malaquias ACSS Academic Chair for Defense Economics, who has led the Africa Center’s work on maritime security and who attended the Yaoundé meeting.
“The Yaoundé Summit has been preceded by several meetings” Dr. Malaquias said. “The first was in Stuttgart, Germany—at AFRICOM’s headquarters—in 2010. The gathering provided ECCAS and ECOWAS countries a platform to discuss joint efforts to combat security threats in the Gulf of Guinea.”
From there on, several other meetings would be held to give ECCAS and ECOWAS members the opportunity to draft a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and a Code of Conduct to govern interaction between the two Regional Economic Communities as well as between members of the same community.
ECCAS and ECOWAS members officially signed the MOU and Code of Conduct in Yaoundé in June 2013. “But we are not there yet,” said Dr. Malaquias. “The implementation of what was agreed upon in Yaoundé is the next step.”
Malaquias said Security in the Gulf of Guinea is critical to ECCAS and ECOWAS members because instability in this area has direct impacts on the regional economy. “Overall African development hinges on maritime security,” he concluded.