NAIROBI, October 21- Lack of specialised training for security agencies was on Tuesday blamed for increased cases of insecurity at border points across the East and Horn of Africa.
Participants at a meeting under the auspices of the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) blamed regional governments for failing to equip their security agents with specialised knowledge to fight cross-border crime.
All the IGAD nations and representatives from Tanzania meeting in Nairobi were unanimous that security agencies deployed to guard border zones possessed too little or simply no specialised training on terrorism, human trafficking and other crimes.
Kenya’s Internal Security and Provincial Administration Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia who represented the Kenyan government at the conference described the situation as ‘serious’ and called for co-operation from other nations in securing the borders.
Mr Kimemia said Kenya would embark on training its security forces and urged other nations to follow suit.
“This is an issue that requires urgent intervention. We must equip our security agencies with specialised training to be able to tackle this matter,” he said.
Having been a target of terror attacks on at least two occasions, Mr Kimemia said, Kenya was up and ready to tackle all challenges associated with such attacks and any other related security problems.
Kenya has twice suffered terrorist attacks, first in 1998 when Al Qaeda operatives launched simultaneous attacks on US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, killing more than 250 people. Another attack occurred in 2002 when bombers attacked the Israeli owned Paradise Hotel in Kikambala in the north coast where 15 people died.
The two attacks are among the more than 150 cases of terrorism reported across the region, making the Horn of the continent the most vulnerable area to terror attacks in the world.
In his opening remarks at the IGAD meeting, Mr Kimemia announced that the police, National Social Intelligence Service and customs officials would be the first to undergo the training that is aimed at equipping them with proper knowledge to tackle such vices.
He did not elaborate on the special training and when it would start, but disclosed that it would be a broad-based kind of training which would, among other things equip the officers with skills on arms concealment and modern ways of carrying terror-related gadgets including grenades.
“We have been experiencing these attacks because our officers do not know how to detect terrorists and terrorism. Some of these items are concealed in ways that cannot be detected by people with basic knowledge,” he said.
Currently, Kenya largely relies on the Anti-terrorism Police Unit which was set up in February 2003, and the National Counter Terrorism Centre which was established in January 2004 to fight terrorism.
The latter is mandated to coordinate and advice on policy matters in all national counter terrorism efforts amongst the security agencies.
Ambassador Hiruy Amanuel who heads the IGAD Capacity building Program against Terrorism (ICPAT) said the organisation was keen to establish mechanisms which would empower member states to counter terrorism in the region.
“It is a serious issue which requires a permanent solution, as IGAD we have little we can do at the moment because we are not equipped to deal with that,” he told journalists at a news conference soon after attending the official opening of the three-day meeting.
Though concerned with the increased piracy cases by pirates in Somali coastline, Ambassador Amanuel ruled out any intervention by IGAD, saying they do not have forces to deploy forces.
“This is an issue that can be considered in future once IGAD establishes forces for deployment in such circumstances,” he said of the Ukrainian Faina ship which has remained in the controls of Somali pirates for four weeks now.
The meeting organised by ICPAT with funding and support from the British High Commission brings together 35 senior policy makers from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania.