STUTTGART, Germany, Sep 4- Africa is a transit point for drugs, human trafficking and other transnational crimes, senior officials at the United States Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany have said.
The situation is so because of the rampant corruption at the entry points- airports, sea and border points.
The vast African terrain is also a contributing factor coupled with instability in most of the countries according to the United States Marine Corps General Thomas Waldhauser, who is the fourth Commander of the United States Africa Command.
“We all understand the overall size of the continent of Africa in terms of how large it is and what that means in terms of the country’s ability to Govern so many spaces that are away from their capital cities,” he said during a briefing of East African journalists at the Command’s headquarter in Stuttgart, Germany.
“So, with human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapon trafficking along with violent extremist organisations like ISIS, they thrive in areas where there is no or poor governance.”
According to figures presented by the officials at AFRICOM, about 350 billion US dollars are illegally traded across the world per year.
“For the traffickers, it’s all about money. They have no value for human lives,” he said. “We are talking of billions of dollars changing hands here. It is a livelihood for so many people,” he stated.
To him, the vast space within the continent that remains ungoverned, is a major recipe for all these vices to thrive.
About 34 countries African countries are within the coast line while others have acres of ungoverned borders.
About Kenya, details posted on the AFRICOM website (https://www.africom.mil/area-of-responsibility/east-africa/republic-of-kenya) indicate that “ Corruption and insecurity are the two greatest impediments to Kenya achieving sustained, rapid economic growth, and the United States has urged the government to take effective action against them.
Conflict and instability in neighbouring Somalia pose serious security and humanitarian challenges for Kenya and the region. The United States provides equipment and training to Kenyan security forces, both civilian and military.”
Reports by various security departments at AFRICOM indicate the African continent’s main threats are, “South American cocaine, South West Asia heroin, methamphetamine and precursor chemicals, Narco terrorist activities, International money laundering and trafficking in other drugs like captigon, khat, cannabis, hashish and so on.”
He, however, pointed out that the more than 3,000 kilometres coastal line in Somalia is gradually becoming stable due to heightened security activities there.
“Case’s of piracy has dropped while the traffickers have resulted to use other routes,” a senior official at Command added.
– ISIS Somalia –
Captain Casey Osborne, the Director of Public Affairs Special Operations Command Africa says they are concerned about ISIS in Somalia, “becoming a threat in the region.”
The group, he says, remains isolated but has a potential of becoming a regional security challenge.
Somalia is still struggling with the menace of Al-Shabaab terror group that has caused havoc in the horn of Africa country for decades.
– Measures put in place –
The United States through AFRICOM have committed to support African Maritimes authorities in enforcing the law through capacity building- extensive training and provisions of modern ‘tools of trade.’
They also adopted a multi-agency approach while tracking down the sophisticated drug trade and other related illegal activities.
An example is a partnership between Kenya’s authorities and their US counterparts that led to expatriation of key drug dealers at the East African coast.
“We tried this for more than 2 years due to legal hurdles,” one of the officers privy to the operation and did not want to be identified said.
Bureaucratic legal hurdles have however been attributed to the sluggish manner with which such suspects are prosecuted.
In Somalia, they have committed to enhance the capacity of the Somalia National Army and that of neighbouring countries, in a bid to eliminate the threat of terror posed by Al-Shabaab.
Of the support extended to the region, includes some modern choppers set to be given to the Ugandan army, while Kenya’s army continues to receive intensified training among other areas cooperation.