- Internal affairs ministers from across East Africa and the Horn region have met in Seychelles, signing an agreement on a range of measures to combat transnational illegal activity. The agreement is to strengthen the regional cooperation to fight border-crossing organised crime, terrorism and narcotics trade.
Ministers representing the ten member states of the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) signed three agreements designed to bolster cross border work on the extradition of criminals, the fight against terrorism and the struggle with the narcotics trade. EAPCCO member countries include Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
The fourth meeting of the EAPCCO ministers, held in Seychelles, was on Friday opened by Seychellois President James Michel who highlighted the need for international cooperation in tackling crime. "Today's intricate web-like nature of organised crime knows no boundaries, and in order to be most effective against it, we too need to be motivated and intricately networked," said President Michel.
The Seychellois President stressed the need for an efficient information network to be developed within the regional crime fighting body, saying, "we need to work with each other and develop and nurture strategic partnerships that effectively deal with organised crime and corruption that strike at the very core of our social, political and economic fabric on all fronts."
President Michel also assured the delegates of Seychelles commitment to work towards this endeavour. "For my part I can guarantee you that there is the political will and determination in Seychelles to lead where we must and to participate where we can. Whichever way, you can certainly count on our commitment," the President said.
Following the ministerial deliberations and signing of the three agreements, Seychellois Foreign Affairs Minister, Jeremie Bonnelame - who will chair the EAPCCO ministers group for the next twelve months - expressed his satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting. Minister Bonnelame takes over this position from his Tanzanian counterpart.
According to a statement issued by the Seychellois government yesterday, there had existed "numerous differences" between the EAPCCO member states at the meeting. The regional police body embraces traditional foes such as Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, countries that find it politically impossible to extradite persons to their neighbour countries.
Despite these differences, however, Seychellois Minister Bonnelame said that the issues faced across the region are common to all of the member states. "The problems are the same and the means of fighting these problems are also the same. Up to a certain point we cannot be as widely active as a bigger state, but we do have common ground and we do fight together."
Minister Bonnelame's words were backed up by Ronald Noble, Secretary-General of Interpol, who also attended the meetings, and who praised the work done by EAPCCO and the support it offers to Seychelles. "We know that Seychelles builds on tourism, builds on the confidence and trust of foreigners and businesses, so that if terrorism can be fought around the world, Interpol and EAPCCO can help Seychelles and other countries like Seychelles to draw on one another's resources."
Mr Noble's statement was also welcomed by other regional tourism powers, such as Tanzania and Kenya, where a number of terrorist attacks on US interests have scared off many potential visitors. Tanzania currently is currently challenging official US government travel alerts, denying the country's crime rate is a threat to tourists.
EAPCCO was founded in Kampala, Uganda, during the first meeting of eastern Africa police chiefs, held in February 1998. The Kampala meeting set up an institutionalised body after emphasising the need for a collective effort to curb the cross border crime within the region. The body came into force in August 2002. It recognizes Interpol as its Secretariat.
Made up of 181 member countries Interpol operates on a one member-one vote system. Apart from EAPCCO, organising East African and Horn countries, Interpol also organises regional police coordination organisations in Southern Africa (SARPCCO), Central Africa (CCPAC) and West Africa (CCPAO).
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