Weak rule of law opens East Africa to organised crime, UN

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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