INTERPOL African conference in Algeria unites regional law enforcement against transnational crime
ORAN, Algeria – Strategic regional planning and timely exchange of police information are essential in effectively combating crimes ranging from human, drugs and arms trafficking to maritime piracy and terrorism, delegates heard at the opening of the 22nd INTERPOL African Regional Conference in Algeria.
Bringing together more than 170 senior law enforcement officials from 44 countries and 10 international organizations, the three-day (10 – 12 September) conference will address regional security issues and identify areas to enhance efficiency and strengthen cooperation throughout Africa and beyond.
Algeria’s Director General of National Security for Algeria, Major General Abdelghani Hamel said the number of countries attending was testimony to their commitment in combating the organized crime and terrorism threats facing the African region.
“I have no doubt that the results of our work during this conference will make a significant contribution towards enhancing our future actions in meeting these challenges. INTERPOL is not only the best channel for international cooperation in achieving this, but also for ensuring that our police services reach even higher levels of performance,” said Major General Hamel.
INTERPOL President Mireille Ballestrazzi encouraged countries to further expand access to INTERPOL's global databases and I-24/7 secure police communications system which had already enabled significant progress in the field of border security.
“Africa and INTERPOL have long signalled their commitment to the fight against terrorism and organized crime. Destroying the threat posed by terrorist groups means targeting their ability to function ... and to recruit,” said President Ballestrazzi.
“Expanding access to INTERPOL’s databases at border control points, ports and airports enables law enforcement to better exploit its full potential for the benefit of national, regional and global security,” concluded INTERPOL's President.
INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said the successes achieved across the African region underlined the Organization’s ‘simple yet firm belief that cooperation between law enforcement agencies across member countries can overcome the greatest of challenges.’
“Whether it be illicit trafficking in wildlife, human beings, small arms, drugs, counterfeit medicines or the challenges of combating maritime piracy, the role of regional and international police cooperation is fundamental to deter crime in Africa,” said Secretary General Noble, highlighting the recent success of Operation Usalama.
Led by the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization and the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization, Operation Usalama was directly supported by INTERPOL’s Regional Bureaus (RBs) in Nairobi and Harare and resulted in the rescue of more than 300 human trafficking victims, the seizure of drugs, guns and stolen vehicles and the recovery of smuggled goods including ivory and diamonds.
Secretary General Noble also pointed to INTERPOL’s growing role in fighting environmental crime, most recently with Operation Wendi, an INTERPOL-led initiative targeting the illegal trafficking in elephant ivory in West and Central Africa regions supported by the RBs in Abidjan and Yaoundé.
With that one operation alone resulting in more than 60 arrests and the seizure of nearly 4,000 ivory products, the INTERPOL Chief encouraged member countries to attend the upcoming International Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference organized by INTERPOL and the United Nations Environment Programme to be held in Kenya in November.
“In Eastern Africa alone, the illicit ivory trade is believed to have led to between 5,600 and 15,400 elephants being poached annually. With such alarming rates of growth in this type of crime, it is only by being united and resolute that we can chart the roadmap for helping all our 190 member countries fight and defeat this evil,” said Secretary General Noble.
The importance of partnerships was also key for assisting member countries the Secretary General told the conference, with funding from the European Union behind INTERPOL’s Rebuilding Libya’s Investigative Capability (RELINC) initiative and the Organization’s West African Police Information System (WAPIS) project.
Secretary General Noble also highlighted the support from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada which had enabled expansion of access to I-24/7 and a series of capacity building initiatives to combat terrorism in the horn of Africa and beyond.