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June 16, 2022

Strengthening regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism

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The Horn of Africa region has suffered greatly under the scourge of the Somalia-based terrorist group Al Shabaab. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia continue to develop and implement various counter-terrorism initiatives in their respective countries which have seen low recruitment and radicalization levels. But to holistically eliminate this threat in the region, a united approach has to be applied across the region.

Seeing the transnational nature of terrorist activities in the region, it is necessary to ensure effective and efficient regional cooperation in criminal matters related to terrorism. The Al Shabaab relies on the illegal trade of arms, weapons and drugs to survive in the Horn of Africa region. As such it becomes paramount for cooperation to stop all these activities from going on in the territory.

Since 2018, significant strides have been made by member states in response to the growing terrorist activities. Member states through the Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation (EAPCCO) established the Counter Terrorism Center for Excellence with a mandate to ensure timely sharing of knowledge and information, coordinate planning and capacity building, and recommend best practices for member states.

This framework has successfully reduced the economic prowess of the AlShabaab and its criminal activities. This has been demonstrated by low recruitment and radicalization levels as a result of low motivation to join terrorist groups. Money was and continues to be a lure to join terrorist groups but with the monitoring of financial links to AlShabaab, money does not reach the AlShabaab.

This has also resulted in an increase in the rates of defection from the group. This was especially on the increase before the Somalia presidential elections when dozens of bank accounts linked the Al Shabaab were frozen and illegal vessels ferrying drugs and weapons were ceased and captured along the Somalia coastline and on international waters.

Regional cooperation is proving a successful tool in addressing the AlShabaab threat in the Horn of Africa. Future trajectories of AlShabaab indicate that we will witness more defections in the coming months, especially from senior militants who will want to trade intelligence for protection. Another expectation is that recruiters of the AlShabaab will surrender to law enforcement authorities and reveal travel routes and camps used by the group. The regional cooperation in the Eastern Africa region has weakened the AlShabaab and its illegal activities around the region.