20 Sep 2022

Organized crime and armed conflicts in Eastern Africa

This report analyses organised crime and armed conflict to better inform law enforcement at a strategic level.

Across the globe, the proliferation of new armed groups (including rebels, militias, criminal groups and gangs) has made conflict prevention and resolution even more complex. Armed groups are diversifying their revenues, which are increasingly based on organized crime activities.

Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) often benefit from the turmoil of armed conflicts and violence. They can engage in violence to protect their illicit business, undermining national economic development and security. Furthermore, OCGs can team up with armed groups to access and control natural resources, competing with the state to provide public goods or even protection to their community.

Different situations of violent conflict affect countries in the Eastern African region. Crime dynamics that emerge from instability in one country of the region can spill over into a neighbouring country, posing a threat to regional peace and security. The emergence of hybrid criminal groups engaged in transnational organized crime and in armed conflict most likely represents a relevant dimension of contemporary conflict in Eastern Africa. Yet, the knowledge on the multiple ways in which OCGs prey, or even amplify, local conflicts for their own benefit remains limited.

Organized violence for profit continues to affect Eastern Africa. Kidnapping for ransom, looting, threats and sexual gender-based violence are among the most reported incidents in the region. The driving factors for those crimes are sometimes difficult to discern and involve a combination of reasons such as economic gain, firearms sourcing (notably for cases of looting security forces), intention to control a community or territory.

Illicit financial flows, and particularly, illicit taxation, allow OCGs and armed groups to generate revenue through commodity taxes, by imposing taxes on the community to move through certain areas or to run their business.

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ENACT is funded by the European Union
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ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies in partnership with
INTERPOL and the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.