Countries in the Horn of Africa have formed a task force to co-ordinate regional interventions in the face of threats to marine resources and security around the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
The team was formed on Thursday in Nairobi by the Committee of Ambassadors from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) partner states of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, Somalia and South Sudan.
The decision was prompted by the need for the states to have a common position on the region’s security and economic interests.
The areas of concern are maritime security, migration, terrorism, prevention of illegal and unregulated fishing, pollution, piracy and the dumping of toxic waste.
The decision to form the team comes amid increased competition for marine resources in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and the scramble for ports and military bases by countries like China, the US, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
The task force will provide a platform for dialogue between countries in the region and international players, and develop a common position to protect the security and economic interests of the region.
The Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden are important international waterways that hold significant geopolitical interest for the Igad region.
“Its location along the Bab-el-Mandeb strait — one of the world’s strategic chokepoints enhances the value of the region in global maritime trade and security,” said Igad’s special envoy to Somalia Mohamed Ali Guyo, who will be heading the team.
Competition for hegemonic influence between the Gulf states and international actors such as China, and the war in Yemen, requires Igad partner states to safeguard their marine resources collectively, and also deal with insecurity, Mr Guyo said.
“Nobody wants this important waterway to be disrupted. The war in Yemen and insecurity in the Arab peninsula, the uncontrolled migration and the presence of ISIS in the north of Somalia could bring back piracy,” he added.