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29th Feb 2024

EU to train counter-terror services in east Africa

  • 'We are not here to investigate the countries', Hotte said (Photo: EUSEC)

The EU has unveiled plans to offer counter-terrorism training to help east African security agencies improve cross-border investigations and prosecutions in a region hit by deadly raids carried out by Islamist militants.

The new program, to be implemented later this year or in early 2016 across Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen, will cost €11 million over five years.

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It was launched at the start of a three-day "Countering Violent Extremism" conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi on Thursday (25 June).

The EU has pumped more than €1 billion into a variety of counter-terrorism projects in east Africa since 2007, ranging from its naval force in the Indian Ocean, and military training mission in Somalia, to programmes aimed at understanding radicalisation of young people in Somaliland and Kenya.

More than 400 people have been killed in a wave of recent attacks by Al-Shabaab, the terror group which controls much of southern Somalia, and a large chunk of the group’s revenue, estimated by a UN report as being in the region of $70–100 million per year, is thought to come from Kenya.

Following the massacre at Garissa university in April, the government of Uhuru Kenyatta shut down 86 small financial institutions and bank accounts suspected of involvement in financing Al-Shabaab.

But European governments are fearful that the Islamic militant group could launch attacks on European soil and have opened programmes to train and equip a number of national security agencies.

“Europe has learned how important it is to get the balance right between the need for national security and the freedoms, rights and way of life that we are seeking to protect,” Marjaana Sall, the EU’s acting ambassador to Kenya, said on Wednesday.

"Europe too, is seeking to find the right balance and its own solutions to the threat of terrorism. It is an ongoing challenge around the world and has different causes in each local context.”

Alongside training for security services, the EU is backing a mission led by French government agency Civipol, launched earlier this year and also based in Nairobi, to investigate money laundering and terrorist finance in the region.

“We are not here to investigate the countries … we are here to help them,” David Hotte, who heads up the programme, told EUobserver.

Although assessing the scale of illicit financial flows in east Africa, much of it between Somalia and Kenya, remains guesswork, “we are probably talking about billions of dollars,” Hotte says.

His main task is to train government officials, regulators, and members of the judicial system, and improve law enforcement and intelligence-sharing across borders; establish financial investigation units.

Hotte's mission will also examine whether the mobile money networks now used by millions of east Africans to transfer usually small amounts of money, is being used to finance local terror operations.

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