Naval actions contribute to security and strengthen ties with African countries
By First Lieutenant (RM2-T) Thaís Cerqueira – Rio de Janeiro, RJ
The National Defense Policy, currently being approved by Congress, establishes the South Atlantic and the countries of the west coast of Africa as areas of priority interest for Brazil. In this strategic environment, there are risks and threats that demand an increase in security and defense, as well as the strengthening of actions aimed at maintaining regional stability and building an international environment of cooperation between countries.
The actions of the Brazilian Navy (MB) in this area represent an essential instrument for the prevention and peaceful resolution of possible conflicts, developing a cooperative environment with the navies, coast guards and security agencies of African countries.
Brazil’s relations with the states of the region have been based on dialog and the exchange of experiences, even in an increasingly dynamic and challenging geopolitical context. The creation of forums such as the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) and the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone (ZOPACAS) are some examples of these interactions.
Gulf of Guinea
One of the regions that make up Brazil’s strategic environment, the Gulf of Guinea is made up of: Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The islands of Bioko and Ano Bom (Equatorial Guinea), as well as the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, are also part of this geographical area. Its proximity to the national territory and the fact that it is one of the international trade corridors increase the importance of this area for Brazil.
The presence of Nigeria in this context gives the Gulf of Guinea greater economic relevance, since the country has the strongest economy on the African continent, is the largest oil producer and has the highest population density in the region.
According to a 2021 report by the International Maritime Bureau of the International Chamber of Commerce, the Gulf of Guinea has had the highest piracy rates in the world in recent years. One of the main acts of piracy is oil theft, when criminals use hijacked ships as “mother ships” to attack other vessels. The subsequent ransom demand for ships and crew members involves the payment of large sums of money. Other illegal activities that occur frequently are arms trafficking, terrorism, drug and human trafficking, illegal fishing and environmental crimes.
Insecurity at sea makes it difficult to monitor fishing and crack down on environmental crimes. The MB’s presence in this maritime area therefore represents an important contribution to strengthening regional cooperation and developing more effective policies.
Attachés in Africa
Brazil currently has eight attachés on the African continent (see table). The military attachés are public agents who represent the country in international relations. Among the various functions they perform is supporting foreign policy through international defense relations and collaborating in the dissemination of products from the Brazilian Defense Industrial Base. Brazil also has accreditations (extended competencies of the attaché offices) in Benin and Togo, São Tomé and Príncipe, Ghana and Morocco.
In Senegal, the attaché represents the Ministry of Defense and the three Force Commands (Navy, Army and Air Force). One of the functions is to contribute to the achievement of the National Defense Objectives, with regard to the search for mutual trust, collaboration in common interests and cooperation in security and defense matters.
The Cooperation Agreement between Brazil and Senegal was signed in 2010 and, according to the Attaché in Senegal, Benin and Togo, one of the main objectives of the partnership today is to promote joint military training and instruction.
Since 2016, 62 Senegalese military personnel have graduated or are undergoing training in MB military teaching organizations. This year, 32 military personnel are taking courses at Brazilian training schools, seven of whom are Aspirants at the Naval School, two Sergeants at the Admiral Sylvio de Camargo Instruction Center and one Sergeant at the Admiral Áttila Monteiro Aché Instruction and Training Center.
Naval Advisory Missions
The MB collaborates with the states bordering West Africa through technical and military naval cooperation through Naval Advisory Missions in Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde. There are also Marine Technical Advisory Groups in Namibia and São Tomé and Príncipe.
Created in 2006, the Naval Advisory Mission in Namibia is made up of 13 MB military personnel, who provide military, technical and administrative advice and contribute to the structuring and growth of the Namibian Navy.
Also in Namibia, the Marine Technical Advisory Group was created in 2009. Today, it has ten Brazilian military personnel providing military, technical and administrative advice to the Namibian Marine Infantry Battalion. The soldiers are also assisting in the conduct of soldier training courses, infantry specialization, the instruction of the special operations course and the implementation and execution of other training courses of interest to the country.
The missions in Cape Verde began in 2014. There are currently six Brazilian military personnel contributing to the structuring and growth of the Cape Verdean Coast Guard.
MB service members also began working in São Tomé and Príncipe in 2014. At the moment, six military personnel are cooperating with the formation of that country’s Coast Guard. There is also a Technical Advisory Group that conducts the infantry specialization course, supervises the training of Marine soldiers and cooperates in the structuring of the São Toméan Marine unit. According to the Head of the Naval Advisory Mission in São Tomé and Príncipe, the mission strengthens Brazil’s diplomatic relations, as well as boosting Brazilian trade relations.
Gareth Guadalupe, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Communities, who also holds the portfolio of Minister of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and Parliamentary Affairs, highlights São Tomé’s economic growth as a result of the partnership between the two countries. “For a country that has an Exclusive Economic Zone 160 times larger than its land territory, it is very important that the Brazilian Naval Mission remains, which contributes greatly to the training of the Coast Guard’s sailors and marines.
We also want to count on Brazil in other areas of training. For us, the presence of Brazilian Navy ships in São Tomé’s territorial sea is very important, because it shows that São Tomé and Príncipe is a safe place. Hence, we have an increase in tourism and trade,” said the Minister during a visit to the frigate “Liberal” in August 2023, on the occasion of “GUINEX III”.
Also in the quest to improve the safety of maritime traffic in the Gulf of Guinea and the rest of the West African coast, a cooperation agreement was signed in 2018 between the Brazilian Navy and the Cameroonian Navy, establishing the sharing of information on maritime traffic. As a result of this commitment, the Brazilian Naval Force has a permanent representative at the Interregional Coordination Center in that country.
Every year, MB has expanded its presence in Africa through operations and strategic partnerships, seeking to reduce maritime insecurity in the South Atlantic. Courses and training are offered to military personnel from African countries at Brazilian military academies and the Force takes part in naval exercises with countries from that continent.
Through operations such as “Obangame Express”, “GUINEX”, “Grand African NEMO” and “IBSAMAR”, among others, the MB contributes to ensuring the security and protection of Brazil’s maritime borders, acting proactively to prevent and combat threats that could jeopardize activities related to the use of the sea. In addition, the operations provide for the exchange of experiences between military personnel, increase interoperability between navies and friendly coast guards and strengthen the bonds of cooperation and friendship between countries.
The military exercises carried out enable the navies and coast guards of the countries on the West Coast of Africa to carry out actions that contribute to maritime security, combating piracy, kidnapping of people, smuggling, arms and drug trafficking, as well as illegal fishing, and in favor of benign activities, such as relief and rescue operations.
The third edition of Operation “GUINEX”, led by MB, took place from August to September this year, when the frigate “Liberal” left the port of Mindelo, in Cape Verde. In addition to the ship, a Combat Diver Detachment and a UH-12 Esquilo aircraft took part in the mission.
The Brazilian military carried out joint exercises, in port and at sea, with the navies and coast guards of Cape Verde, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe and Senegal. The navies of Spain, the United States, Portugal and the United Kingdom also took part in training such as boarding techniques, visiting and inspecting ships, maneuvering fast vessels, transit under asymmetric threats and special operations techniques.
Operation “Grand African NEMO” has been taking place since 2019, under the coordination of the French National Navy. It includes operational visits to the ports of Walvis Bay, in Namibia; Luanda, in Angola; Lomé, in Togo; and Abidjan, in Ivory Coast. The exercises at sea began on October 9, in the coastal regions of Angola, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo – in the jurisdictional waters of the countries that make up the Alpha Area of the Yaoundé Architecture, in accordance with the Yaoundé Treaty – and will end with an operational demonstration at sea on October 19, in Togo.
The creation of the Yaoundé Architecture is a regional initiative to tackle maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea. The code provides mechanisms and protocols for the actions of the navies, coast guards and other security structures in the Gulf of Guinea, both of the countries in the region and of the states that work there to combat crimes at sea. MB will take part in this operation with the Ocean Patrol Vessel “Amazonas”, which left the Rio de Janeiro Naval Base on September 13, heading for the African continent.
“Obangame Express” is another important exercise held in the Gulf of Guinea, and its last edition took place in January this year, with the participation of 33 countries. Conducted by the United States since 2014, the exercise involved the navies of Angola, Brazil, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ocean Patrol Vessel “Araguari” took part in the exercise, carrying out activities of varying levels of complexity, such as simulating scenarios involving human trafficking, illegal immigration, arms and drug trafficking, illegal fishing, kidnapping, piracy, environmental pollution and search and rescue.
Another example of the increased capacity for joint operations and the consolidation of friendly ties between the MB and the navies and coast guards of the West African coast is “UNITAS”. The latest edition of the operation took place in Brazil, especially as part of the celebrations for the Bicentenary of Independence and the Brazilian Fleet. On that occasion, the navies of the Republic of Namibia and the Republic of Cameroon crossed the South Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro for the first time to take part in the mission.
For Captain Simon Kombada, commander of the Namibian Navy’s flagship “NS Elephant”, taking part in “UNITAS” was doubly important. “Firstly, our participation boosted crew morale and gave us confidence. Secondly, it improved tactical proficiency, capabilities and greater interoperability, as well as showing the competence that the Namibian Navy can have when participating in a joint exercise with other navies,” he explained.
Created in 1986 by United Nations Resolution 41/11, ZOPACAS is the result of an initiative by Brazil, supported by Argentina. The aim is to promote regional cooperation and maintain peace and security around the 24 member countries with coastlines in the South Atlantic.
MB’s role in the forum goes beyond that of participant. The Brazilian Naval Force promotes debates on maritime issues related to the South Atlantic, such as the “1st ZOPACAS Seminar – Safety and Surveillance of Maritime Traffic, Search and Rescue”, held in 2013.
The most recent ZOPACAS meeting took place in April this year, in the city of Mindelo, Cape Verde. One of the results of the “VIII Ministerial Meeting of ZOPACAS” was the definition of partnerships in areas such as science and technology, education, the environment, strengthening national institutions, the economy, transportation, political dialogue, among others.
During the event, the MB Chief of Staff stressed the importance of actions aimed at increasing maritime security and socio-economic development in Brazil’s strategic surroundings. “The recent instability caused by acts of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea requires cooperation, the exchange of experiences and presence actions between friendly countries in the region, as the South Atlantic has enormous potential to be exploited and numerous related threats,” he said.
On October 25 this year, MB will hold the 2nd Maritime Symposium of the South Atlantic Peace and Cooperation Zone, with the theme “ZOPACAS – Strengthening Maritime Cooperation and Security in the South Atlantic”. The event will be held in Brazil and will feature speakers from South Africa, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde and Nigeria.
Source: Agência Marinha de Notícias
Source: Agência Marinha de Notícias