A ground-breaking agreement adopted by police chiefs from Central and West Africa in Brazzaville will boost efforts to fight transnational threats across these regions.
In the first agreement of its kind in Africa, the Central African Police Chiefs Committee (CAPCCO) and West African Police Chiefs Committee (WAPCCO) including Mauritania signed a declaration for co-operation on criminal and police matters. The declaration determines police chiefs have to put the agreement to their ministers of interior for approval.
The agreement provides for a common, cross-regional approach to preventing and combating transnational organised crime, terrorism and violent extremism. It is the outcome of a high-level, two-day meeting organised by the CAPCCO Secretariat, the Republic of Congo government and the ENACT project at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS). The meeting also benefitted from the support of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC) and Interpol.
ENACT is implemented by a partnership of expert organisations – ISS and Interpol, in affiliation with the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime.
Cross-border threats and criminal activities increasingly undermine prospects for peace, security and development in West and Central Africa, a statement issued after the meeting said. Porous borders, ongoing low-level conflict and weak institutions engender fragility and the rise of crimes including trafficking of arms, drugs, wildlife products and people as well as financial crimes, maritime crime and terrorism.
The result is a lucrative criminal economy and a heavy toll on people across all sectors of society.
“Transnational organised crime leads to siphoning off of funds that ought to be spent on bolstering institutions and development opportunities,” said ENACT Project Head, Eric Pelser. “The true and unquantifiable cost of these crimes is the theft of prospects, opportunities, livelihoods and lives”.
The meeting of police chiefs of the member states of CAPCCO, WAPCCO and Mauritania was held in Brazzaville on June 13 and 14.
Opening the meeting, Minister of the Interior and Decentralisation for Republic of Congo, Raymond Zéphirin Mboulou, spoke about the devastating impact of organised crime across the region. He emphasised the importance of collaboration in responding to these crimes and outlined the need to simplify operational procedures in detecting, intercepting and prosecuting criminals.
“By signing the agreement we will replace lengthy extradition procedures and simplify collaboration in the transfer of criminals and goods from police to police,” the minister said.
While criminals in the two regions operate with apparent unfettered freedom of movement, law enforcement officers do not.
“No one country can on its own combat transnational organised crime. In the same way crime crosses borders; so too must responses to curb it see the joining of forces across national boundaries. Co-operation is key,” CAPCCO chair representative, Kolsala Sirandi Ongtoin, said.
The agreement puts in place practical mechanisms to strengthen day-to-day, operational collaboration among police institutions.
“Transnational criminal networks are organised, well equipped and powerful – often more so than the state institutions and law enforcement agencies meant to fight them,” Michel Koua, Interpol Regional Bureau head in Yaoundé, and CAPCCO Secretariat head, said.
“We must now, more than ever, provide strong, concerted and co-ordinated responses to threats to peace and security extending beyond our regions,” Têko Mawuli Koudouovoh, WAPCCO chair and Togo Chief of Police.
This sentiment was echoed by Ambassador Saskia De Lang from the EU Delegation to the Republic of Congo. “Co-operation is not a choice, it’s a necessity,” according to her.
West and Central Africa are connected in terms of geography, history and cultural heritage. Despite these linkages the regions have to date responded to transnational organised crime in a fragmented manner. With a new agreement in place and a common understanding, criminal syndicates now take on 24 countries when they take on one.