Thirteen Eastern Africa governments have signed the Nairobi Declaration reiterating their commitment to enhancing security and justice for all citizens in their respective countries.

The endorsing of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Programme on Promoting the Rule of Law and Human Security in Eastern Africa was witnessed by more than 30 government delegations and various United Nations bodies on Tuesday on the sidelines of the just concluded Tokyo International Conference on Development (TICAD).

The 13 Eastern African States in endorsing the UNODC Programme for 2016 – 2021 demonstrate their resolve to address pertinent issues on countering transnational organized crime and trafficking such as wildlife crimes, maritime crimes human and drug trafficking.

The African governments led by Kenya have also committed to countering corruption, terrorism prevention, crime prevention and criminal justice as well as the prevention of drug use, treatment and care of drug use disorders including HIV and AIDS Prevention and care.

The UNODC Regional Program for Eastern Africa aims to promote and support effective responses to transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking while strengthening a functional justice system against terrorism to be implemented by member states in accordance with the Rule of Law.

The program will further contribute to member states meeting the 2030 targets of the Sustainable Development Goals aimed at promoting simultaneously security and development.

According to the Director General of the United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV), who is also the Executive Director of UNODC, Yuri Fedotov, persistent threats posed by terrorism had greatly contributed to increased incidents of transnational organized crime further complicating the implementation of the rule of law and protection of human life.

Comparing the operations of terror groups in the Sahel, Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa regions, the Executive Director, UNODC observed that the involvement of terrorist organizations in other criminal activities such as drug trafficking, theft, forging of documents, kidnappings, extortion for protection, fraud and financial crimes transformed terrorism into organized crime.

“There is a blurred border with terrorism and organized crime activities where they merge as one.Whether through benefitting from proceeds of organized crime, receiving material and logistical support, or recruiting and exploiting people, terrorist organizations are benefitting from organized crime activities” stated Fedotov.

In Eastern Africa, for instance, it was noted that there was an increase in trafficking of components for improvised explosive devices, illicit trade in charcoal and sugar as a means of income for Al Shabaab; trafficking in heroin to Eastern Africa was reported as benefitting the Taliban while trafficking of illegal immigrants from the Horn of Africa benefited the Daesh in Libya.

Kenya’s Solicitor General Njee Muturi stated that while piracy had been on the decline, trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, drug trafficking, as well as terrorism, was increasingly being detected. These he noted posed significant threats to human security both in the region and beyond.

“The initial security threat posed by Somalia-based Al-Shabaab has transcended into a web of regionally located terror cells, with partial alliances to terror groups beyond the region. Heroin trafficking to and through the Eastern African coastal region from South Asia, as well as regional opiate use, have risen in volume with more sizeable maritime cargo seizures. Also, a significant increase in the smuggling of natural resources, such as ivory and charcoal poses alarming risk not only to the environment but to sustainable livelihoods within the region” the Solicitor General told the gathering.

Muturi further noted that the Government of Kenya had already put in place measures aimed at curtailing illicit export trade of charcoal and sugar using falsified documentation concealing shipments.

Measures too are in place to arrest radicalisation that is being carried out through online platforms while increased surveillance along the coastal strip and on the high seas of the Indian Ocean was leading to the arrest of drug traffickers who have been using dhows, skiffs and cargo vessels.

Justice Ministers and Attorney Generals from the Republics of Comoros, Djibouti, Uganda, Ethiopia, Burundi, Tanzania, Madagascar, Somalia, Mauritius, Seychelles, Eritrea, Rwanda and Kenya, signed the 2016 Nairobi Declaration at the Tribe Hotel.

The newly launched UNODC Regional Program on Promoting the Rule of Law and Human Security in Eastern Africa 2016- 2021 follows an earlier commitment in 2009 by governments of the region to strengthen the partnership and coordination with the aim of contributing to justice, security and health.