International or transnational organized criminal groups are proliferating in Eastern Africa with human trafficking, ivory smuggling, trading in illegally mined diamonds, and maritime piracy being the biggest threats to nations in the region, according to Friday's report in the legal news service, the Jurist.
The report, Transnational Organized Crime in Eastern Africa: A Threat Assessment, recommends that organized crime organizations should be targeted by Eastern African governments using aggressive and diverse procedures within the region and within the countries where illegally obtained substances and goods are ultimately sold, the report states.
The Office on Drugs and Crime report highlights the principal crime threats facing the region as well as their costs in blood and treasure to society.
For example, the report notes that "more than 100,000 people were smuggled out of the region last year alone, generating over of $15 million for organized criminal networks operating on the maritime crossing from the Horn of Africa."
Many human beings who end up running into the arms of organized crime thugs are victims of almost constant warfare and civil strife, as well as poverty and famine. When they attempt to escape such a hellish environment, they are in many cases subjected to physical and mental abuse, illegal imprisonment, extortion, and rape by the traffickers," said Samuel Gilmore, an African-American law enforcement official who has witnessed the cruelty of human trafficking and enslavement while a big-city cop.
Ivory poaching -- although not considered a serious crime by many westerners -- according to the UNODC results in up to hundreds of tons tons being taken that leads an additional "$30 million in illicit revenue just from Asian markets," the report states.
Recent research indicates that the rate of poaching in the region is threatening the local elephant population. Between 5,600 and 15,400 elephants are poached in Eastern Africa annually, producing between 56 and 154 tons of illicit ivory. Two thirds of these were earmarked for Asian countries, according to the report.
Narcotics trafficking remains an enriching part of the organized crime trade. Tons of heroin are smuggled into and through the region each year. While heroin has been smuggled in the region since the 1980s, a series of "recent large seizures suggest that this flow has increased," the UNODC claims.
"Since 2010, more 'smack' (street name for heroin) was interdicted by law enforcement in East Africa than in the previous 20 years. And who knows how many African police are on the 'pad' for the organized crime mobsters and allowing shipments to be delivered unfettered," said Gilmore.
And then there is piracy in waters off the coast of Somalia: an estimated $150 million was obtained by pirates in 2011, which the report claims is almost 15 per cent of war-torn Somalia's gross domestic product (GDP).
The report's authors claim that: "Illicit markets effecting Eastern Africa often originate or terminate on other continents. As a result, purely local interventions are inadequate to resolve the underlying problem. Optimally, these markets should be evaluated and strategically addressed at a global level, but to protect Eastern Africa, local law enforcement must also be strengthened."