- Conflict, weak governance and uncertain rule of law have been cited as key ingredients in making the East African states vulnerable to a host of criminal activities.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) said today at a conference convened in Nairobi, Kenya, to develop a concerted response to the problem.
Spearheading the Regional Programme to Promote the Rule of Law and Human Security in Eastern Africa 2009-11, experts are meeting this week to develop a comprehensive approach to countering illicit trafficking and organised crime, building justice and integrity and preventing terrorism.
"Poor governance, insecurity, conflicts, poverty and economic disparities among and within countries of the region are providing opportunities for transnational organised crime,” UNODC’s Director for Operations Francis Maertens said, adding that the result is “widespread illicit trafficking in drugs, persons, money, arms, wildlife and timber products.”
Maritime piracy, especially along the coast of Somalia, is another recent example of what can happen when the rule of law is absent, he said.
In a news release, UNDOC said it is seeking to harness partnerships to pursue security and development together, in a plan of action with the African Union (AU), among other efforts, since high crime rates, poor legal systems and poverty interact in harmful ways.
In most East African countries both national crime-prevention policies and youth programmes are lacking, UNDOC said, along with reliable data on the drug and crime problem.
In addition, the agency said, criminal justice systems are under-resourced and most prisons in the region are overcrowded.
To address such problems, UNDOC said a project is being launched to assist the AU Commission, regional economic commissions and member states to mainstream justice and security issues into their development agenda.
"The key challenge for the Programme to Promote the Rule of Law is to translate the regional programme into an integrated, effective, and sustainable set of activities on the ground,” Mr Maertens said.
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