28 May 2018

Three types of organised crime on the rise

Policy makers should prioritise responses to drug trafficking, maritime security and violent extremism.

In Central Africa, transnational criminal activities such as wildlife crime, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and arms smuggling are thriving. Governments in the region are unable to address these effectively, hamstrung by political and socio-economic fragility, weak governance and poor border management.

Although it is necessary to identify priority crimes, this remains challenging given limited monitoring, data and weak media reporting. This calls for a closer look at national and regional contexts in Central Africa.

Regional strategies remain limited by a lack of institutional capacity, particularly in the Economic Community of Central African States and maritime security mechanisms. Efforts to reorganise these mechanisms, and a new consensus around the African Continental Free Trade Area, provide opportunities to boost regional peace and security.Central African states are hamstrung by political and socio-economic fragility, weak governance and poor border management

At national levels, drivers of transnational organised crime include corruption and limitations to the rule of law; such as weak law enforcement. The region also continues to suffer from a resource curse, given its abundance of natural wealth, wildlife and vast water reserves. This has attracted illicit exploitation and trafficking.

One of Central Africa’s biggest challenges in tackling organised crime, however, lies in how it engages its large youth population. States’ violent repression of dissent amid economic crises is fuelling anger and radicalisation among youths, who turn to criminal gangs or violent extremist groups for inclusion and employment opportunities. This is particularly evident in Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In this context, the following three trends in transnational organised crime are likely to increase in intensity, and should be prioritised by policy makers:

  1. The nexus between organised crime and violent extremism. Terrorist and violent extremist groups in the region, such as Boko Haram, Séléka and Anti-balaka are increasingly using organised crime tactics and networks to fund their activities.
  2. Maritime insecurity. Sea-based criminality such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and maritime banditry also requires greater attention. Current efforts are underway to revise the maritime security architecture of the Gulf of Guinea maritime domain.
  3. Drug trafficking. In December 2017, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime issued an alert on the increase in the ‘trafficking and consumption of tramadol and its security and health implications in the Sahel and beyond’. This opioid, which is illicitly trafficked from India to West Africa, poses high health and security risks in Central African countries. Given insecurity at its northern, west and eastern borders with Nigeria, CAR and Chad – Cameroon has become a destination and transit country for drugs. The school holiday period (June to September) is expected to see a spike and consumption and demand by youths across Central Africa.

Unless prioritised at both a national and regional level,  the impact of these trends is likely to be felt long into the future.

 Agnes Ebo’o, ENACT Regional Organised Crime Observatory Coordinator – Central Africa, ISS

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ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies in partnership with
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