Joined Up Action
The East African Community (EAC) secretariat has called upon member states of the trading bloc to jointly deal with Somali pirates whose attacks on commercial ships are stunting the region’s economies.
“Although, there are measures taken by the respective EAC member states, to ensure peace and security, the region remains vulnerable to terrorism due to its proximity to Somalia and relaxed borders….it’s time we jointly addressed security issues,” said Ms Beatrice Birungi Kiraso, the EAC deputy secretary general for Political Federation.
Briefing reporters about the EAC security meeting, held in Dar es Salaam on Friday, she said economic sectors of investment, tourism and trade will do well if all member states jointly address security issues.
She said recent terrorism events in Uganda and Kenya were an alert to Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, hence the need to have the issue addressed jointly.
“As good people are moving from one country to the other looking for employment and doing business, under the EAC Common Market, bad people are also using that opportunity…We have our border posts but there is also a very long open land which has no restriction for people from neighbouring countries to cross,” she said.
According to her, the Dar es Salaam meeting, which involved security chiefs and intelligence agencies from the member states, would also come out with a strategy on the mutual legal assistance which will help to handle terrorism suspects in the countries.
“The documents which we are preparing here will be sent to ministries in charge of security in the respective countries for implementation,” said Mr Onyanyi Leonard, the Peace and Security officer at the EAC secretariat.
In July last year, at least 70 people died after twin bomb blasts in Kampala. which Somalia’s Al-Shabab claimed responsibility. The event increased East Africa’s risk profile.
Terrorism incidences are also blamed on increased oil prices in the region. They also affect tourist arrivals.
According to Mr Leonard, lack of employment to the youth in the region was another cause for concern as unemployed youths can easily be recruited as terrorists.