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Making Eastern Africa Safer from Online Terrorist Threats

Kigali (Rwanda) – “Seeing that it’s possible to bring perpetrators to justice by following their digital trail inspires hope that with sufficient training we will get ahead of the terrorists and ensure that the Internet is not a haven for them,” – shared a participant, commenting on the results of specialized regional workshop to counter terrorist activities on the Internet.

The Internet and technological innovation have transformed our lives. Global connectivity has stimulated economic growth, strengthened equality, and empowered communities and individuals. It bolstered the freedom of speech and individual expression, opening unprecedented horizons for creativity, entrepreneurship, and learning.

Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed exponential growth in Internet use – from only one percent at the turn of the century, to a third of the total population by 2020. Yet, as the global online population continues to grow, so does the threat. Early on, terrorist groups have learned to exploit virtual space to their advantage. With time, some have mastered it to create a sophisticated and sprawling online presence – to radicalize, recruit, ransom, and raise funds. 

In Eastern Africa, the threat is on the rise. Avoiding moderation by posing as news outlets, blogs, and media personalities, Al-Shabaab and Da’esh successfully disseminate content in multiple languages, attracting recruits from the region and beyond. Terrorist groups pray on the pre-existing societal inequalities. 

To help make Eastern Africa safer from online terrorist threats, UNODC, together with the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (EAPCCO) and its Counter-Terrorism Centre of Excellence (CTCoE) delivered the workshop, which was attended by 35 law enforcement officers tasked with investigating and disrupting the terrorist use of the Internet from 10 Eastern African countries, the event shed light on the current trends and challenges, cutting-edge investigative techniques, and good practices in cooperating with the service providers.

“Countering terrorist use of the internet is increasingly difficult as terrorists are migrating to more niche and hidden parts of the Internet, making their activity harder to identify and disrupt,” – said Ms. Charley Gleeson, Open Source Intelligence Analyst at the Tech Against Terrorism, a global initiative, “which is why it can only be done effectively with collaboration between the tech sector, governments, and civil society to ensure that human rights and democratic freedoms are upheld."

A critical challenge for law enforcement is the difficulties associated with cooperating with the service providers to obtain electronic evidence: “as more crimes are being committed online, and with the service providers often located in foreign jurisdictions, law enforcement officers should have the skill set to efficiently request, collect, handle, and present electronic evidence, and UNODC developed a range of materials and resources, including a Practical Guide” – explained Ms. Carine Giraldou, Programme Manager for Eastern Africa, UNODC Terrorism Prevention Branch. “Time and again, digital footprints have proven indispensable for building a successful prosecution case. The skills of an officer to work with service providers and analyze the data are of pivotal importance.” 

Experts from Arma dei Carabinieri, the Italian national gendarmerie, presented real-life complex cases which required advanced investigative and data analysis techniques and sophisticated digital forensics methods to unravel. 

“The fight against the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes could not be won by one single country,” – stressed Ms. Isabel Kalinhangabo, Deputy Secretary-General of the Rwanda Investigation Bureau, which hosted the workshop in Rwanda to support regional cooperation. Her sentiment was shared by Ms. Josephine Marealle-Ulimwengu, Strategic Planning and Team Leader, Office of the UN Resident Coordinator, Rwanda – “the established regional law enforcement cooperation frameworks, including EAPCCO, provide an optimal platform to ensure coordination and facilitation of training of the law enforcement practitioners”.

To chart a way forward, the officers put forward a set of recommendations for the upcoming EAPCCO Annual General Meeting. Ranging from requesting focused training, to stressing the need for a broader harmonization of the legislative and operational practices, at their core the recommendations echo the basic premise of the UN’s Secretary-General Roadmap for Digital Cooperation – to advance a safer, more equitable digital world, one which will lead to a brighter and more prosperous future for all.

The assistance was delivered as part of the Supporting the EAPPCO and its Regional Counter-Terrorism Centre of Excellence to Prevent and Counter Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime in Eastern Africa project, funded by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.


See UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Africa (2030) here.


For more information, please contact: 
Mr. Julius Lemako (
Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer 
UNODC Regional Office for Eastern Africa