Terrorism presents the most serious security threat in Eastern Africa. Ever since the year 1998 when Al Qaeda carried out its first attacks against US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Terrorism has remained firmly etched in the minds of Governments and citizens and evokes much fear and emotion. The emergence of the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab terrorist group in the year 2006, propelled the region to one of the most vulnerable to terrorism in Africa. Consequently, Al Shabaab gained control of large parts of Somalia establishing a quasi-government system complete with a taxation structure that ensured stable funding. This provided impetus for Al Shabaab to continue attacks against Somalia security forces and civilian targets as well as select targets in other countries in the region.
The Somalia security agencies backed by foreign forces under the umbrella of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have to an extent managed to downscale the ability of Al Shabaab but the terror group remains capable of carrying out attacks across Eastern Africa. There is also a new twist in Al Shabaab that points to greater reliance on local, home grown terrorists who operate in discrete cells that are difficult to suspect and disrupt.
It is thought that Al Shabbab is also using the attacks to raise its profile among other international terrorist organizations such Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Islamic State in order to attract funding and other support. Other than Al Shabaab, the region also continues to experience threats from other terrorist organizations.
In Eastern Africa therefore, the challenges that continue to perpetuate terrorism include the continued spread of religious fundamentalism and extremism; the growing threat of home grown terrorism; the existence of porous borders; inadequate sharing of intelligence among countries; and inadequacies in addressing radicalization and violent extremism.
The growth of mobile money transfer services also poses challenges in terms of possible use as an alternative avenue for terrorism financing.
In realization of these challenges, the EAPCCO Council of Police Chiefs, in the year 2012, passed a resolution to establish the EAPCCO Counter Terrorism Centre of Excellence in Nairobi, Kenya. The Centre of Excellence became operational in the year 2018 and aims to coordinate and promote information sharing. EAPCCO recognizes the support of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) towards the operationalization of this centre.
It is also noteworthy that INTERPOL has also established a Regional Counter Terrorism Node whose role is to support member countries through deployment of Policing Capabilities, supporting and coordinating operations and responding to terrorist incidents among other roles.
Indeed INTERPOL has already been supporting operation SIMBA with significant success over the course of the last two years.
In order to support capacity building to counter the threat of terrorism, the Council of Police Chiefs authorized that the Secretariat coordinates a regional joint training exercise each year. In all, the region has witnessed three Field Training Exercises in Uganda and Kenya, one Command Post Exercise in Rwanda and two Table Top Exercises in Rwanda. The EAPCCO family equally recognizes the support of INTERPOL, the EU Project Regional Law Enforcement in the Greater Horn of Africa and Yemen, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and UNODC in supporting these exercises.
On capacity building, EAPCCO in partnership with the ISS has in place a Counter Terrorism Training Manual. This manual has so far been used to train close to 600 police and other law enforcement officers including bomb technicians thanks to the support of ISS and other international partners.
As a region we are also keen to avert not only the well-known modus operandi of
attacks but also focus on the possibility of deployment of chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological (CBRNE) weapons.
To further reinforce the region’s capacity to counter the terrorism threat, the Council of Police Chiefs established the Counter Terrorism Sub Committee whose members are Heads of Counter Terrorism Units in member countries. The subcommittee meets at least twice in a year within the framework of the EAPCCO Organs and Annual General Meetings to deliberate on the region’s threats, trends and share best practices as well as develop strategies and recommendations to the Permanent Coordinating Committee.