The top United Nations envoy for West Africa has called for concerted international efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, as well as other forms of transnational crime such as trafficking in narcotics and medicines.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for West Africa Said Djinnit discussed the issue at length on a visit to Benin last Friday with President Boni Yayi and other high-ranking officials, who warned him that their country would suffer an even more severe economic impact if piracy was not contained. Mr. Djinnit announced the forthcoming visit of a UN evaluation team to Benin.
The issue of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was raised by several West African officials at last month’s General Assembly annual general debate in New York as they called for greater UN and international support to prevent the region’s coasts from becoming a haven for pirates and to fight growing drug and arms trafficking.
In August the Security Council voiced concern over increasing piracy, armed robbery and reported hostage-taking in the Gulf and warned that the crimes were having an adverse impact on security, trade and other economic activities in the region.
Before visiting Benin, Mr. Djinnit spent two days in Guinea as part of a joint UN-African Union (AU) mission together with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to encourage political leaders to create favourable conditions for peaceful, fair and credible legislative elections after an outbreak of deadly violence last month.
His visit followed a call by Mr. Ban last month for all stakeholders to refrain from violence and engage in dialogue. In a meeting with Guinean President Alpha Condé on the margins of the General Debate, Mr. Ban called for the peaceful resolution of all major political disputes to ensure that the elections scheduled for later this year are free and fair.
He urged the authorities to ensure that security forces avoided excessive use of force and stressed the importance of allowing peaceful protests after demonstrations in Conakry, the capital, had led to loss of life.