Failure by governemnt institutions and other state actors has seen the rate of crime increase to new heights as East Africa continues to record the highest levels of criminality in Africa.
By NLM WRITER
Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia are some of the leading nations in cases of organised crimes and criminal activities in Africa as criminal elements continue to carry out increasing cases of drug and human trafficking, extortion and racketeering protection, among other vices.
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A report by the Institute for Security Studies, Interpol and the Global Initiative Against Transformative Organised Crime shows that criminal activities involving organised groups, political and state actors, and militia groups have risen in the East Africa region.
The report released as part of the findings by the Enhanced Africa’s Response to Transnational Organized Crime study, ENACT, says that in the five years since 2019, East Africa has had the highest levels of criminality on the African continent.
Criminality in the region, says ENACT, has largely been driven by the high levels of armed and ethnic conflicts and the presence of non-state armed groups and militias. Groups such as Al-Shabab have also been singled out as some of the militia groups responsible for the increasing cases of extortion, human trafficking and racketeering in the region.
ENACT made the findings part of a five-year study on the levels of organised crime and criminality in the continent and on the levels of resilience by government agencies and institutions to fight these vices.
On resilience, many nations, including Kenya, were found to have failed to enact policies and programmes to fight some of these criminal activities. The overall resilience in Africa has also been experiencing a decline, with the figures falling between 2019 and 2021.
“Since 2019, East Africa has had the highest levels of criminality on the continent, driven by high levels of armed and ethnic conflicts and the presence of non-state armed groups and militias,” ENACT says.
“The East Africa region has also long grappled with high levels of armed and ethnic conflicts and the presence of non-state armed groups and militias, which are significant drivers of criminality,” it added.
ENACT argues that the region scored the highest ranking, driving the continental averages for human smuggling, extortion and protection racketeering, arms trafficking and human trafficking.
The report argues that this sharp increase has been attributed to the emergence of activities of groups such as the Al-Shabaab, which have been carrying out extortion and racketeering activities in parts of Somalia and the border regions between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.
The region’s ranking increased from 5.51 points in 2019 to about 5.88 points in 2023. The report ranks criminality across regions and countries between one and ten, with ten indicating higher cases of criminality and organised crime.
“Initially, between 2019 and 2021, East Africa’s criminality average rose from 5.51 to 5.66, reflecting an initial increase of 0.15 points.
“Subsequently, between 2021 and 2023, it surged once more, this time by 0.22 points, resulting in a new average of 5.88 in 2023 and underscoring the growing threat of organised crime,” ENACT says.
In terms of individual performance per country, seven of the nine countries that comprise the East African region scored higher than the continental average of criminality of 5.25.
Kenya had the highest at about 7.02, Uganda at 6.55, Sudan at 6.37, South Sudan at 6.32, Tanzania at 6.20, Somalia at 6.13 and Ethiopia at 5.68. only Djibouti and Eritrea scored lower than the average at about 4.65 and 3.97, respectively.
East Africa, ENACT argues, leads in the cases of human smuggling and trafficking, extortion and protection racketeering, as well as arms trafficking. The most pervasive criminal markets in the region are human trafficking and arms trafficking, which both scored 7.78 in 2023.
“All nine countries in the region scored above the continental average of 6.06 for human trafficking exhibiting prominent levels of this criminal market,”
the report shows.
“Eritrea had the highest score of 9 points, followed by South Sudan at 8.5, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Sudan at 8, Uganda at 7.5 and Djibouti and Tanzania at 6.5,” it added.
Forced labour and sex trafficking perpetrated by criminal groups have also been widespread across the region. At the same time, in some countries, state actors are said to be directly involved in trafficking activities.
For instance, in South Sudan, the recruitment of child soldiers by state and non-state actors remains pervasive, according to the report, rendering children in the country extremely vulnerable to trafficking.
Arms trafficking has also been on the rise in the region, all thanks to what the report says are the escalating levels of conflict and instability in the region.
“Initially identified as the most prominent criminal market in the region, the vice has grown from 6.78 points in 2019 to about 7.78 points in 2023,” ENACT argues.
Across the continent, West Africa recorded the second highest levels of criminality on the continent, with criminality in the region largely driven by political instability, armed conflict and heightened insecurity.
West Africa, ENACT says, is one of the main continental hubs for cocaine trade due to its well-established trans-shipment hubs.
On the other hand, North Africa had the third-highest criminality levels on the continent, up from the fourth-highest in 2019 and 2021. The region stood out as the highest-scoring region for financial crimes in Africa and worldwide. It also occupied the top spot for the cannabis trade and the synthetic drug trade.
In Central Africa, crimes involving non-renewable energy resources are some of the most prominent vices alongside arms trafficking.
The region is said to have been experiencing an expansion of arms trafficking since 2021, fueled by renewed hostilities across the region’s conflict areas, political instabilities and coups d’états, among other factors.
Down in the South, countries in the South African region are said to have also been experiencing growing cases of fauna crimes despite the region ranking the lowest in terms of criminality and organised crime levels in the continent.
ENACT notes that fauna crimes, down in the South, were the most pervasive criminal markets, with the region serving as one of the largest hubs for live animals and animal parts.
Besides the growing cases of financial crimes, widespread embezzlement, fraud, and tax evasion are reported in the region. The heroin market is also widespread in the Southern African region.
Conversely, ENACT argues that while many of these criminal activities have been on the rise, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, resilience and an urge to fight these vices have been on the low.
The resilience by government institutions, agencies and other state actors to fight off these vices, ENACT says, has failed to keep up with the increasing criminality. Africa’s resilience dropped by about 0.06 points from 3.86 points in 2019 to about 3.8 points in 2021.
“The drop was likely because countries were focused on mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic rather than maintaining and strengthening mechanisms against organised crime,” the report notes. (