Asmara, Eritrea, February 2019 - By its very nature, transnational organized crime is committed across borders and addressing it requires international and regional cooperation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Eastern Africa and the Government of Eritrea convened the first-ever regional workshop in Eritrea on strengthening international and regional police cooperation in Eastern Africa from 30 January to 1 February 2019.
The 3-day workshop was attended by senior criminal justice officials from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, INTERPOL's regional office for Eastern Africa and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Its programme included discussions around effective, timely and appropriate communication and sharing of information on transnational organized crime.
The event also highlighted the importance of enhancing legal frameworks and arrangements on joint operations and investigations, including digital and financial investigations, in line with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC) and its supplementing Protocols.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Colonel Mehari Tsegai, Commander of the Eritrean Police, said that no country in the world was immune from crime, and that Eastern Africa was facing these same challenges and threats, including that of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants as well as drug and small arm trafficking.
He underlined that it was a joint responsibility of the countries of the region to secure the safety and security of their citizens. If these crimes were left unabated, they would threaten the social, economic and political stability of the region as a whole. Col. Mehari also reiterated that governments in Eastern Africa and their police forces needed to cooperate closer to overcome threats posed by criminals across the region.
Johan Kruger, Head of Transnational Organized Crime, Illicit Trafficking and Terrorism Prevention Programmes for UNODC in Eastern Africa stated that transnational organized crime was by its very nature being committed across borders, with planning, recruiting, exploitation, movement of money and other illegal conduct by no means limited to a single country. As such, no single jurisdiction could prevent, suppress or counter this crime effectively without continuous and committed international cooperation.
Mr. Kruger said that this meeting was far more than just another workshop: "This is a strong signal by the Member States in Eastern Africa, and especially the Horn of Africa, of their commitment to strengthen regional cooperation and coordination on countering transnational organized crime in an integrated and effective manner".
The workshop was organized within the framework of the UNODC Regional Programme for Eastern Africa (2016-2021) and its sub-programme on Countering Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking, including activities on "Strengthening the Human and Institutional Capacity of the Government of Eritrea to Fight against Human Trafficking and Smuggling of Migrants" funded by the United Kingdom, and the Better Migration Management (BMM) Programme, funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).