As the East African Community (EAC) deepens cooperation, it is also quite natural that there will be a hike in crime. Law enforcers are quick to cite the fact that crime is a function of development.
And, the more advanced a society, the more sophisticated too crime becomes. It is therefore welcome news that EAC has set high on its agenda the need to fight cross border and transnational crime as a bloc.
It is in that light that EAC and International Police (Interpol) will soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation to fight cross border crime as central to the objectives of the EAC Common Market Protocol that provides for free movement of goods and people within the region.
As we say in Kiswahili, in a procession of crocodiles, you are also likely to find monitor lizards. The bad guys will always be there but they should never go unpunished.
As the region integrates, there are signs already that criminals too are "integrating." A Kenyan has appeared in court in Dar es Salaam charged with the abduction and gruesome torture of a doctor who led a recent strike by medical personnel in Tanzania. Observers were left wondering and surprised as to what interest a Kenyan had in a medical strike in a foreign country. But, the fact that the man appeared in court was enough to send shockwaves.
Crime is bad because generally, it is the biggest enemy of development. Where culprits are not booked without regard to their standing in society, crime also makes nonsense of the constitutionally cherished ideal that all people are equal before the law. It is very easy for criminals to find safe havens in different jurisdictions but it becomes impossible if authorities pursue them relentlessly irrespective of where they could be hiding.
Law enforcers know that fighting crime is a calling and passion for the men and women who often put their lives online for the sake of justice. Therefore, fighting transnational crime can only succeed if there is political will also to not tolerate crime whatever the circumstances.
In EAC there should be no room for political heavyweights to help friends to cover up their troubles with the law.
But the deal with Interpol should not be a case of too many cooks spoiled the broth. All the partner states already have cooperation arrangements with Interpol through the Regional Bureau, which for East Africa is in Nairobi. All that the EAC can do, I believe, is to complement the existing country arrangements with Interpol for targeted assistance to enable the partnership work without complaints from other members.
The most important thing for East Africans is safety and security for their lives and property and to be able to move across the region unmolested. That can only happen where the law enforcement organs would also be able to meet the challenge. Fighting crime today is not just a matter of flexing muscles.
Law enforcers have to be empowered to be 21st century crime busters who wouldn't be strangers to the advancements in information and communication technology.
That is one area where Interpol has a clear edge and the region stands to benefit massively from its human and other resources. In the end of course, it would be one good contribution to global peace and security. East Africans can pride themselves in nothing less.
East African News Agency