Rwanda(ANN)There was no shortage of security threats to discuss during the 13th Eastern African Police Chief’s Cooperation Organisation (EAPCCO) General Assembly that was held in Kigali from September 11 to 16. The forum, which was established as an effective way of improving
international police cooperation in combating transnational crimes amongst 11 countries in the region—Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan, and Tanzania —was also attended by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
The region has seen its share of security challenges over the years, including the presence of insurgent groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Forces for the Defense and Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). Although the meeting touched on other areas of concern such as the apprehension of genocide suspects and cross border trafficking of small arms, there were other threats that rightfully garnered considerable a
ttention as well.
Cybercrime was at the top of the list. As broadband networks continue to expand throughout the region there is growing concern that without adequate security, hackers will be able to infiltrate sensitive networks, such as those belonging to banks and government ministries. “We are getting the service but there is not enough skill to protect us from hackers,” explains an IT expert in Rwanda who asked to remain anonymous. “Just ten days ago a government website was hacked.”
To minimise such incidents, says the source, there has to be greater focus in passing cybercrime legislation—something Rwanda is in the midst of processing—and greater investment in training people in network security. “IT is still developing,” he says. “Even in the US there is still a lack of formal training for security.”
However, with the opening of a Carnegie Mellon campus in Kigali next year, these needed skills will be offered. Students from all over the region will be invited to attend classes given by Carnegie Mellon professors who are well-versed in the area. Moreover, the Rwandan government will be providing scholarships for its own students to encourage their enrolment at the school.
Trafficking counterfeit pharmaceuticals, according to Interpol officials, also poses a serious threat to the region. An INTERPOL-led operation entitled Mamba III, conducted in 2010 across East Africa, netted 10 tones of counterfeit and illicit medical products, including 90 kilos in Rwanda, and led to the arrest of more than 80 illegal manufacturers.
According to John Patrick Mwesigye, the coordinator of the pharmacy task force in the ministry of health, most counterfeit medical products that reach Rwanda are smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi and consequently end up in the bordering western districts of Rusizi, Karongi and Rubavu.
However, Mwesigye says serious measures have been put into place to ensure the provision of safe and effective medicines. “44 companies are now permitted to supply pharmaceuticals and we make sure they keep in mind all regulations including quality and efficiency of what they import,” he says.
Mwesige, nevertheless acknowledges that Rwanda still lacks medical product quality control laboratories, but says there are plans to set them up in the next 15 months. “All we need in terms of financial means are available,” he says. “We are ready to start construction activities.”
But Rwanda’s borders are vulnerable to more than just counterfeit drugs; according to Vicent Mpunga who is in charge of the revenue protection department at Rwanda and Uganda’s Kagitumba border, opium and Waragi also find their way through porous areas of the border.
Moreover, Interpol findings show that since 2006 over 15000 motor vehicles have been checked against Interpol’s stolen motor vehicle database in the Eastern African region.
Tragically, people, most often vulnerable women and children are also trafficked across borders. According to the US State Department’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report, Rwanda was reported to be amongst a number of countries that serve as the source and to a lesser extent a destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex.
The same report points out that this trafficking is facilitated by organized prostitution networks through which women supply other women or girls to clients staying at hotels. According to the report, Rwandan children are recruited and transported to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, where they are subjected to forced agricultural labor, domestic servitude and child prostitution.
The Rwandan Director for International Cooperation Chief Superintendent Elisa Kabera says that the police are still struggling to identify and respond to suspected cases of human trafficking but that tactics such as a hotline to report such cases have been developed.
Moreover, Interpol has also pledged to work with EAPCCO by providing it with access to its I-24/7 communications system. Through I-24/7, users can search through and share important data, including databases of suspected criminals or wanted persons, stolen and lost travel documents, stolen motor vehicles, fingerprints, DNA profiles and stolen administrative documents.
The I-24/7 will also prove invaluable for tracking down outstanding genocide suspects. During the 10th annual EAPCCO summit in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, in September 2007, the Council of Police Chiefs had recognized the gravity of genocide as a crime against humanity and included it in their joint cooperation arrangement.
Kabera says that Rwanda consequently established red notices for genocide fugitives in various countries. “We released red notices with pictures of genocide suspects,” he explains. “We did our job. Only the Interpol managed to arrest 32 of 97 on the red notice.”
Although some of the most wanted genocide fugitives such as Ildephonse Nizeyimana, Juvenal Rugambarara, and Callixte Nzabonimana, the former minister of youth in the government of Juvenal Habyarimana, have been apprehended in EAPCCO member states, others such Felicien Kabuga, accused of bankrolling and participating in the genocide, remain at large.
Bringing such individuals to justice will undoubtedly be a priority for Rwanda’s Inspector General of Police Emmanuel K. Gasana, who was elected to succeed his Sudanese counterpart, Gen. Hashim Al Hussein, as EAPCCO’s chairman for the next 12 months.
With the opening of the East African community Common Market in July 2010, movement of goods and people across EAC member states’ borders was made free. Although this policy will create many economic benefits it will also produce greater security risks. In much of the same as security requires the vigilance and participation of everyone, a lack of security can have adverse impacts on everyone as well.
“Our region’s lack of security is antagonising foreign trade and investment. Criminality has developed into an international phenomenon like globalisation. This also creates a big challenge for us to fight its threat to peace,” said Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza at the opening of the Council of Ministers responsible for police issues. “Given the nature and magnitude of this trans-border criminality, governments should work jointly to contain it because we can no longer afford to face our enemies individually.”