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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Why illicit trade is fueling terrorism in East Africa

By Otieno Otieno

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Illicit trade is the driving force for some of the deadliest terror organizations operating in the East African region, Counter Extremism Project (CEP) report has shown.

The report titled ‘An Unholy Alliance’, details how some of the notorious terrorist organizations are relying on the proceeds from illicit trade to give shape to their evil schemes and wreak havoc.

According to CEP senior advisor and author of the report Sir Ivor Roberts, the East African region is being undermined by illicit trade networks which continue to expand and mature in their sophistication. He says the cost to the region has been enormous.

“At every link in the illicit chain, economic, social, and political harm is done to East African society, while terror and crime groups grow stronger,” says Roberts.

He also describes how the multi-million-dollar illegal tobacco industry has become an important source of revenue for criminal networks, funding corruption, insurgency, and the illegal arms trade across the region.

In the report, the none-profit organization established that groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIS-linked affiliates in Somalia and Mozambique.

The two terrorists groups are also believed to be operating in Central Africa.

The report further shows that urban gangs and international crime groups, are increasingly targeting East Africa as a destination market for illicit trade, as well as a transport hub for the mass import and export of illegal goods.

“Terrorist groups continue to cash in on the illegal ivory trade to pay their soldiers and fund their campaigns of terror, while Somali warlords profit from the thousands of bags of cheap, illicit sugar that are smuggled into Kenya every day,” the report reads in part.

The report also disclosed that Asian crime syndicates, Latin American narco-traffickers, and other international crime groups have also earmarked the region as a key location for smuggling narcotics, wildlife, precious stones, and counterfeit goods.

As East Africa struggles to recover from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sir Ivor believes the region must prioritize measures that target illicit trafficking.

 “The most effective way from the East African region, and the wider international community, to fight extremism, crime, and corruption is to turn off the taps of illicit trade.”

He explained that this can ensure critical revenues are not lost to the shadow economy but are instead invested in key services.

“Combating illicit trade should be the number one priority for East African governments and their international allies. This issue goes beyond the borders of East Africa, and it is imperative that the international community pay heed,” Sir Ivor remarks.

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