Terrorism tops the agenda of East African Police Chiefs

Posted on October 13, 2013 08:42 am

East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization concluded that fighting terror should be their number one priority after their two day meeting held in Kampala. Uganda’s Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura called for more sophisticated measures to fight terrorism. His counterparts also called for cooperation meant to strengthen regional security stability in efforts to prevent disruptions such as terrorism and human trafficking. Police chiefs plans to encourage security officers in the region to meet both formally and informally to speed up these efforts, adding that plenty of formal meetings had been scheduled to discuss regional security matters. As the East African economies moves more and more online, the threat of cyber attacks and cyber terrorism looms large. In Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi the Internet penetration is increasing rapidly. However, there is a shortage of trained manpower in cyber security domain and according to a meeting held in Kampala on Friday October 11 and ended on 12th October the regional security chiefs lamented the lack of skilled security men and women who can monitor social media and other online platforms to detect and prevent terror attacks like last months Westgate attack in Nairobi that left close to 70 people dead.

Presently the East African region has less than 500 trained cyber security experts and if one considers the wide ambit of the information security domain, this turns out to be a very small number. The regional security chiefs agreed there is need to do more to protect government bodies, businesses, institutions and the more than 135 million East Africans from heinous criminals and terrorism. Plans are afoot to initiate a talent hunt for secure programmers across East African Community to help identify the team of experts that help security chiefs to monitor terror activities online as well deal with financial funding for terror. Security chiefs who attended agreed that security experts are need of the hour from terror police units to online security experts. The meeting in Kampala could have ushered a shift in focus of its administration from just border patrols to online patrol. One source was quoted as saying that there is a lot of sensitive information being transacted by terror groups and terror cells associates and it is imperative that security comes into play. East Africa’s first regional cybersecurity policy should envision creating cyber-security experts over the next three years. This is because cybersecurity is still being taught at the very basic level in the region’s security institutions and countries are being forced to train specialists in western countries. In fact it is not yet officially part of the security curriculum and is not being treated as a specialized domain that should be taught as an independent subject for those recruited to join security apparatus.

Security chiefs agreed there is strong need for stronger collaboration between the five countries security agencies to address the crime at the earliest stage and prevent future west gate type of attacks. East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization will also commence building a regional security community, and while member countries agreed to set a new benchmark for the cooperation, the road ahead may prove bump because each country has different sets of laws when it comes to terrorism and crime laws in general. They agreed to empower regional options in dealing with various security issues within the East African region. Africa’s most successful regional economic bloc discussed plans to formulate a set of concrete actions to establish a regional security mechanism where terror intelligence information is shared among the five member states. However, there is a great uncertainty with some member countries underlining that the security for East African community should not trespass their sovereignty. Me think that for East African security concept to work effectively, the plans must not broach sensitive security issues that may be unattractive to some countries. Under the security development plan, the police chiefs were asked to have open discussions among member countries on their respective security situations. East African region is faced by renewed terrorism threats arising from its unstable Somalia. There were calls for the five East African countries to pool resources towards acquiring state of the art forensic equipment that can efficiently detect crime. EAC secretariat is said to be considering developing a short curriculum on integration for basic police training programmes. Joint operations by partner states could come in handy in an effort to eliminate crime and terror networks in the five member states of East Africa.

Contador Harrison