A meeting of the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) started yesterday in Kigali with heads of criminal investigations, counter-terrorism, gender and legal departments discussing how to foster cooperation to combat transnational organised crimes in the region.
During the two-day meeting of the 34th Permanent Coordinating Committee of the 13-EAPCCO member bloc, experts in various policing and security fields will deliberate on fragility and small arms and light weapons, challenges posed by foreign fighters and returnees; importance of including women in policing; combating drug trafficking and wildlife crimes, among others.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Emmanuel K. Gasana, while presiding over the official opening of the meeting, said that ensuring security to enhance nations’ development is one of the challenges at hand at the time when “potential partners and investors are turning their eyes on the region with interest, confidence and hope.”
He said that criminal networks in the region are trying to undermine the vision of the leaders in building a new future of the African continent in general.
“We are currently faced with emerging crime threats, and as law enforcement organs are compelled to refocus more on having modern equipment, develop strategic tools, build IT infrastructures and generate skilled personnel that matches with this trend of criminality,” IGP Gasana said.
He said that cooperation and collaborative engagement to pursue collective security, jointness in training, timely exchange of information to understand the security situation in the region is more wanting and should be made a culture.
EAPCCO bloc, he said, should fix the digital gaps in modernising policing by also engaging other parties like banks, telecom firms, research centres and airports, among others.
The bloc has so far set standards towards police professionalism, by establishing regional centres of excellence in various domains in Peace Support Operations and cybercrime centre to be hosted by Rwanda; community policing model in Uganda; modern forensic laboratory in Sudan; and regional counter-terrorism centre in Kenya, among others.
According to Francis Muhoro, the outgoing chair of the Permanent Coordinating Committee, over the last two years, simultaneous operations were conducted in EAPCCO and The Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Co-operation Organisation (SARPCO) member countries which led to the seizure of illegal products.
Rwanda, during the meeting, took over the Permanent Coordinating Committee chairmanship with ACP Morris Muligo, the commissioner for CID assuming the role.
At least 4, 500 people, according to Muhoro, were arrested in the operation codenamed ‘Usalama III’ in the two regions over crimes related to human, drugs and arms trafficking, people smuggling, terrorism, motor-vehicle theft, and environmental crimes.
Through searches conducted in Interpol databases by member countries, about 30 stolen vehicles were recovered over the last two years, and victims of human trafficking were rescued in Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda.
About 12 of the vehicles were recovered in Kenya and Tanzania.
“Illicit goods including drugs, guns, ammunitions, and minerals of gold, in excess of $2.043 million were seized,” said Muhoro.
Meanwhile, the 18th council of Chiefs of Police adopted various resolutions, some of which are yet to be implemented by member states.
These include establishing the ‘population and search of Interpol database,’ extension of I-24/7 communication tool beyond National Central Bureaus, ratification of legal agreements and operationalisation of centres of excellence, among others.
Gedion Kimilu, the head of Interpol regional bureau in Nairobi, said that organised criminals are taking advantage of the two busiest ports in the region – Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam for their ill-intents.
The terror syndicates now using East Africa route and the recent seizure of 500kgs of cocaine in Djibouti from Brazil, Kimilu said, is clear testimony of the vulnerability of the region to drug trafficking menace.