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At night, off the sleepy Lomé and its coconut palm beaches, the horizon sparkles with a thousand lights, a mirage of a non-existent shore. They are the lights of the masts, stern or sides of an armada of tankers, bulk carriers or other container ships at anchor. The port of the capital of Togo, known to all shipowners for its naturally deep waters, is the destination of only some of these ships. The rest, most of them, have anchored there, for shelter, not from the storms, but from the pirates, mainly Nigerians, which infest the area. They are kept in check by the radars and the four patrol boats of the national navy which secure the 75 kilometers of the Togolese coast.
It is a tiny fraction, and northern, of the approximately 5,700 kilometers of coastline of the Gulf of Guinea. But a safe haven for all these crews who sometimes wait for days for the green light from the port authorities of Lagos, Cotonou or Accra to unload their cargo there. The attention paid by the Togolese authorities to securing their maritime border is a significant argument, a comparative advantage in regional trade competition.
It is also a legitimate question of national security. According to Mahamat Saleh Annadif, head of the United Nations office for West Africa and the Sahel, “The security challenges created by terrorist acts in Liptako-Gourma [zone aux frontières du Mali, du Niger et du Burkina Faso] and in the Lake Chad Basin as well as by the crime along the coasts of the Gulf of Guinea must be approached from a regional perspective, because the risk of a junction between the threat coming from the sea and that coming from the Sahel is real ”.
In Lomé, this possibility is not neglected. Even if, confides a safe source, “This junction which involves the shared interests of criminal groups [les pirates] and Islamist ideologues is not obvious ”. “Lomé is 700 kilometers from Cinkassé [ville frontalière du Burkina Faso], recalls this source, but we are vigilant ”. To date, the country is spared from attacks by armed groups. But he watches his neighborhood with concern.
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