Cyber experts to assess Kenya’s readiness of combating cybercrime

English: Flag of Nairobi (Kenya) Español: Band...

English: Flag of Nairobi (Kenya)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Chrispinus Omar NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — Cyber security experts from the world are due to meet in Nairobi next week for an international conference aimed at assessing the readiness of Kenya to combat cybercrime.

The Kenya 2014 Cyber Security Conference will provide an opportunity to review the outcomes from the previous conference, chart a way forward as well as disseminate advancements and trends in the security sector, organizers said on Tuesday in Nairobi.

“We have noted that the trend globally is for a public private partnership approach to solving cybercrime problems,” said William Makatiani, Managing Director of Serianu Limited, a local cyber security consulting and intelligence firm.

Serianu Limited has teamed up with experts from Canada, Singapore, South Africa, India and the United States to organize the conference.

The June 11 conference is a follow up to the inaugural conference held in 2012 that provided a basis/benchmark for the state of cyber security readiness in the country and region. Continue reading

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Maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea

  • Author: Gustavo Plácido dos Santos
  • Source: Intelligence unit
  • Published: 19 March 2014
  • Filed: 19 March 2014

Fighters with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), pictured in 2008 (Photo: Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Summary

  1. Maritime insecurity incorporates a range of criminal activities, including piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing.
  2. The Gulf of Guinea has recently surpassed the more infamous Gulf of Aden as the epicentre of maritime insecurity.
  3. It is likely that the United States will increase its naval presence in the Gulf of Guinea during 2014.
  4. It is likely that the EU will also participate in an international intervention in the region, though this could possibly be stalled.
  5. It is likely that the international community will push West African countries to legislate for the deployment of armed security guards on their vessels and agree to greater inter-state collaboration.
  6. The potential conflict of interests between the international community and shipping companies over armed guards and/or external intervention will likely force a consensus approach that will possibly fail to address the root of the problem.
  7. It is highly likely that the above moves will lead to a temporary increase in violence in the region.
  8. As such, maritime insecurity in the region is likely to increase throughout 2014, and Benin, Togo and Guinea-Bissau, in particular, are likely to witness an increase in criminal activities across their territorial waters.

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Will Mali become the Next Terrorist Sanctuary?

In the aftermath of the Mali coup, northern secessionists have declared an independent Islamic state. With verifiable links to Al-Qa’ida, there is a real risk that ‘Azawad’, as it is known, will become the next wellspring of instability and terrorism in Africa.

By Valentina Soria, Research Analyst

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The proclamation on 26 May of an ‘Islamic state of Azawad’,[1]  in the northern region of Mali,  came only two months after a military coup that forced former president Amadou Toumani Toure to flee the capital Bamako, plunging the country into a political crisis. The power vacuum left was swiftly exploited by rebel forces to seize a territory the size of France, turning such a crisis into a security and humanitarian emergency. The 26 May announcement indicated that the secular National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamist Ansar Dine (also spelt as Ansar Eddine) had apparently been able to reconcile divergent, if not clashing, ideological positions on government. An independent Azawad was first unilaterally declared by the MNLA in April but not backed by their Islamist allies, keen instead on pursuing the more ambitious aim of imposing Sharia law across the whole country. Yet, early attempts to do so immediately after the seizure of key towns in the north were met with firm opposition by the moderate Muslim local population, with MNLA also mostly hostile to the idea.[2]

Thus, last week’s joint declaration seemed to represent a ‘reasonable’ compromise between the Tuaregs‘ quest for independence from the south and the Islamists‘ desire to create an Islamic state. There was no doubting the opportunistic nature of the deal, with each side trying to secure their grip on power in a shared settlement that, although not ideal, must have been viewed by both at least as an acceptable outcome. Yet, its long-term sustainability is already in question, after ‘fundamental differences’ were blamed by the MNLA for the collapse of the deal only a few days later.

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Globalisation and transnational organised crime in South Africa

Organised crime - cash flow

Organised crime – cash flow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by Khalil Goga (1)

It is argued that in an increasingly borderless world, transnational criminal groups have developed the ability to manoeuvre, prosper and become a dangerous threat to the world system. Increasing levels of transnational criminality in a post-Cold War world and a focus on linkages between organised criminal groups and terrorist groups have brought attention to the effects of organised crime across the globe.

Within South Africa, crime in general has become a national concern since the demise of apartheid. High murder rates and significant property crime rates have led to South Africa being referred to as “the crime capital of the world” with some comparative justification.(2) While the focus on crime in South Africa has often been on the extraordinary levels of violent crime; global, regional and domestic factors have contributed to a growing awareness of the implications of transnational organised crime. A recent estimate by State Security Minister, Siyabonga Cwele, approximated that South Africa lost 10% of its gross domestic product (GDP), estimated at ZAR 178 billion (US$ 21 billion) a year, to the “illicit economy.”(3)

Globalisation has often been cited as a major cause of increasing transnational organised crime.(4) The compression of time and space (5) is seen to facilitate the exchanges of goods, people and finance across borders at a faster rate than ever before, which, in turn, facilitates illicit exchanges. Simultaneously, globalisation has also benefited states in their ability to prohibit and prosecute transnational criminals, and there have been a growing number of cooperative regional and international efforts by states to combat transnational organised crime.(6)

This paper, therefore, critically engages with the relationship between globalisation and transnational organised crime in South Africa.

Defining organised crime

Given the conflation of terminology related to both organised crime and globalisation, there is a clear definition related to the subject matter. When using the term ‘organised crime’, the focus has often been on organised criminal groups such as the Mafia or Japanese Yakuza. Moreover, the focus on these criminal groups has often been one of a hierarchal structure with a ‘godfather’ type personality who controls the organisation.(7) Whilst this has been the dominant paradigm on which organised crime literature has been built, there is increasing evidence of a smaller, more network-orientated approach by organised criminals with more fluid networks, providing criminal organisations with “diversity, flexibility, low visibility, and longevity.”(8)

Organised crime has also been used to refer to “activities.”(9) Thus, a group of criminals engaging in a criminal activity falls under an ‘activity’ and, therefore, constitutes an organised crime. In this paper, the focus is on activities rather than organised crime groups given the changing nature of organised crime groups. Furthermore, focusing on organised crime groups as a differentiation between what is perceived as organised crime and white collar/commercial crime, has been particularly misleading to researchers, because this differentiation (between white collar and organised crime) has been focused on the separation between the ‘respectable classes’ and the ‘criminal classes’ without a proper basis.(10) Often the criminal network is made up of a variety of ‘shady’ and ‘not so shady’ (11) characters, which could include members of the respectable classes (such as lawyers, accountants, politicians). Thus, a focus on organised criminal activities would provide a more critical and focused approach to a study.

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Iran in Africa: Terrorism & Broken Promises

Introduction 

 -view this clip about Iran in Africa.

Increasing political and economic isolation and a broader policy of “exporting the revolution” have led Iran to seek new allies around the world. In this way, Iran hopes to block diplomatic moves against it in the UN, expand into new markets and promote its radical agenda.

The clearest examples so far have been the members of a new anti-US alliance in Latin America.  But while this Latin American activism has been in the spotlight for some time, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government have also been busy shuttling to Africa, speaking of a “new, just world order” and pledging to increase trade and to invest in development projects.

But while Tehran is handing out countless economic promises and talking about the “end of Western capitalism and colonialism,” the effects of an increasing Iranian presence in Africa are already becoming apparent. There, too, Iran takes advantage of its new “friends” to promote its anti-Western foreign policy and support radical militant groups.

Rhetoric of a “New World Order”

An editorial published in the Iranian conservative daily Iran claims that in contrast with the West, whose relations with African states are based on “furthering its own interests”, Iran is seeking relations that will prove mutually beneficial. Indeed, the main line in Tehran’s rhetoric about Africa is that the West is still looking to exploit African countries for its own gain, and Tehran often blames “colonialist powers” for Africa’s poverty and other problems. On a visit to Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo,   Manouchehr Mottaki, then Iran’s foreign minister, stated that the nations of the world are no longer willing to be subjected to an “unfair system”. For this reason, Iran claims that “resistance against the colonialist powers is the sole way to achieve independence and economic progress”. In any event, according to repeated claims by Ahmadinejad, the “capitalist system” is on the verge of collapse.

But some leading officials in African countries are fully aware of the truth about the Iranian regime. During Ahmadinejad’s visit to Harara in April, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai called the visit a “colossal political scandal”, and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) attacked Ahmadinejad over his record on human rights, saying, “He has made his reputation as a warmonger, a trampler of human rights, an executioner of those with dissenting voices and leader of questionable legitimacy.”

Even back in Iran Ahmadinejad’s doctrine is received with scepticism. A reformist newspaper recently warned that the president’s “unrealistic and impossible” view of a new world order only translates into large expenditures for the Iranian people.

It would be unrealistic of African countries to expect high benefits from developing their relations with Iran at the expense of their relations with Western countries, especially as Iran suffers from growing isolation. Furthermore, the modest truth behind Iran’s “big talk” is beginning to emerge.

Broken Promises in Africa and Around the World

Iran’s actions in Africa focus largely on economics with an emphasis on promises of aid to set up factories and various projects. These include, for example, projects linked to the supply of oil and water in Kenya, establishment of a joint investment corporation between Iran and Zimbabwe, construction of cement and asphalt production plants in Comoros, construction of an oil refinery, a tractor assembly plant and a beef cannery in Uganda, extension of a 120 million USD  line of credit from the Export Development Bank of Iran to Senegal for the purchase of Iranian tractors, and construction of Sierra Leone’s first dialysis center. During 2010, Tehran held an Iran-Africa Forum to boost economic and political cooperation, which was attended by representatives from over forty African nations.

However, Iran’s actions in the developing world seldom live up to its rhetoric. Signs of this are also beginning to emerge in Africa, and, according to several Iranian sources, twenty African nations threatened recently to close their embassies in Tehran following what they termed Ahmadinejad’s failure to live up to the promises he made during his trips to Africa. Here are a few examples:

Mali’s Hydroelectric Power Plant Fails to Materialize

In a June 2007 trip to Iran, Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Touré asked Ahmadinejad to help construct a dam and hydroelectric power plant in his West African country, a project that the Iranians seemed to take seriously. In April 2008, Iran announced that it had increased the money allocated for the project to 120 million EUR and that the funds would be handled by Bank Saderat, which was already under US sanctions at the time (and whose assets in the UK would be frozen in July 2010). The construction was to last four years and the risk would be guaranteed by an Iranian fund, apparently since Iranian companies would be involved in the construction to the fullest extent possible.

In March 2009, Manouchehr Mottaki, then Iran’s foreign minister, reiterated support for the project. However there is still no evidence that Iran has actually contributed any resources to getting  it started. But when recently a group of Malian parliamentarians met with Iranian consular officials, there was no word on the status of the project, but only vague nods to mutual support, platitudes regarding increased ties and cooperation, and the usual affirmation of Iran’s right to develop “peaceful nuclear technology”. In fact, there has been no mention of the Malian dam in the Iranian press for over a year, which suggests that Iran’s commitment to the project has flagged.

Senegal’s Refinery: Parties Still Far From Agreement

Senegal has in recent years served as “Iran’s gateway to Africa”, and the 16 million USD in exports to Senegal in 2009 constituted a greater volume of trade than that of Iran and all other West African countries combined.

Iran-Senegal relations have grown much stronger during Ahmadinejad’s term in office, with Iran building a chemical plant and constructing a car assembly factory, all of which seemed to have paid off diplomatically as Senegal’s delegation to the United Nations routinely votes against resolutions condemning Iran’s poor human rights record.

To date, Iran’s most ambitious commitment in Senegal has been to construct a refinery there for its crude oil. This could potentially be a serious boon to the Senegalese economy and transform the country into a net exporter of petroleum. Although the Iranians proposed the idea in the summer of 2007, a business source in June 2010 reported that Iran and Senegal were still in protracted talks regarding the project and seemed far from any agreement.

Towards the end of 2010 the relations between the countries suffered a setback after the capture of an arms shipment in Lagos, Nigeria which was suspected as heading to Senegal. Iranian Foreign Minister at that time, Manouchehr Mottaki rushed to Senegal in order to calm Dakar’s outrage  but was fired during the visit by President Ahmadinejad while still in Dakar.  Senegal reacted by recalling its ambassador from Teheran and relations were only mended after Salehi the new Iranian foreign minister went to Dakar and offered 200 million USD in aid.

On February 23, 2011 Senegal declared it would sever all diplomatic ties with Iran, accusing Tehran of supplying weapons to anti-government rebels. In a press statement explaining the matter, the Senegalese Foreign Ministry said that the weapons supplied by Iran to rebel militants in its southern Casamance region had caused the deaths of Senegalese soldiers.

Learning From the Experience of Others

Iran’s inability, or unwillingness, to back up its declarations with actions on the ground seems to be a familiar pattern. Iran has strewn a trail of unfulfilled promises across the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, as illustrated in the following examples.

Nicaragua: “Of the billions of dollars promised by Ahmadinejad, the Nicaraguans have yet to see a single cent”

Ahmadinejad has developed close ties with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega,  As the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere, Nicaragua is in dire need of massive investment in its economy, which is why, in the late summer of 2007, Ahmadinejad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez announced a plan to build a deep water port for Nicaragua on its Pacific coast .

In a candid interview with the Washington Post in July 2009, an Ortega economic adviser by the name of Bayardo Arce expressed frustration that not only had the Iranians reneged on their promises of a port, hydroelectric dam and a tractor factory, the Iranian government had refused to forgive Nicaragua’s 160 million USD debt, citing the Koran as the reason for their inflexibility. “They haven’t invested anything. They haven’t built anything”, Arce said.

Asked to comment on Iranian policy in Latin America, former Costa Rican Vice President Kevin Roberto Casas Zamora described Iran’s failed commitments to Nicaragua even more starkly: “Of the billions of dollars in investments promised by Ahmadinejad, the Nicaraguans have yet to see a single cent.”

It appears that the Nicaraguans are no longer waiting for Iran. As of July 2010, two Korean firms were in negotiations with the Nicaraguan government to build a deep water port at Monkey Point.

UAE Crescent Seeks International Arbitration over Iran’s Failure to Fulfil Gas Contract

In 2001, a 25-year agreement was signed between the National Iranian Oil Corporation (NIOC) and Crescent Petroleum, based in the UAE. Because of rising prices, however, Iranian officials called for a reappraisal of the price-calculation system, leading to gas-supply delays.

In July 2009, Crescent appealed to international arbitration as a result of NIOC’s failure to comply with the agreement, coming out with the following statement:

“We did not want to take this step but some of our customers have lost patience and are demanding performance, leaving us with no option but to seek a determination on the legal obligation of NIOC to deliver gas, and also to seek indemnity from NIOC in respect of the claims of our customers.”

Early in 2010, it was announced that the NIOC had cancelled the agreement to supply gas to Crescent Petroleum. Crescent contradicted this by claiming that the agreement between the sides was still valid and was currently under international arbitration.

Wikileaks: Iran-Pakistan Gas Pipeline “Very Unlikely”; “Iran has Four Times Failed to Sign LNG Contracts at the Last Minute”

A US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks reveals that a multi-billion Iranian-Pakistani gas link project is unlikely to materialize, despite a signed deal between the two countries. Emphasizing Iran’s “unreliability”, the report further reads:

“During a panel discussion at the conference on the future prospects of Caspian gas, several commentators noted the difficulty of doing business in ‘unpredictable, overly bureaucratic’ Iran, and the alleged historical ‘unreliability’ of Iranian gas supply contracts previously reached with Turkey and Turkmenistan. For example, panelists recounted that, after long negotiations, Iran has four times failed to sign separate Liquefied Natural Gas contracts at the last minute. Two panelists claimed that Iran has repeatedly diverted gas supplies to meet domestic needs, thereby interrupting its contractual gas exports – and has not paid contractual penalties for these violations.”

Terrorism, Drugs and Destabilization

As in the economic sector, the experience of nations around the world in security-related matters does not bode well for Africa. Hezbollah in Lebanon, the aid being provided by Iran to anti-government Houthi insurgents in Yemen, Iran’s support for armed militias in Iraq, Iranian-supported terrorist cells in Latin America and in Egypt, all point to the same pattern.

In October 2010, Nigerian authorities in the port of Lagos intercepted an arms consignment from Iran, apparently destined for The Gambia. The consignment included rockets and grenades under the guise of construction materials, reportedly accompanied by two members of the Qods Force – the key arm through which Iran supports terrorist groups abroad. The presence of Qods Force members is no surprise, since senior officers of the Qods Force joined Ahmadinejad on at least one of his official visits to Africa and Latin America.

The then Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki tried to claim that a “private company” had sent the armaments and that the “misunderstanding had been settled” , but failed to convince Nigeria. As of today one Iranian national is on trial in Abuja (see photo) the other was released after heavy Iranian pressure.

The Nigerian government reported the incident to the UN Security Council and during January 2010 the UN “panel of experts” visited Nigeria to investigate the affair.  Nigeria also called off a friendly football match scheduled between the two countries.

The Gambia responded more forcefully. In November, it announced it was severing all ties with Iran and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave the country.

In another incident involving Iran, in December of 2010, Nigeria’s National Drug Law Enforcement Agency seized close to 130 kilograms of heroin, worth about USD 10 million, concealed in engine parts shipped from Iran.

Military Presence and Terrorist Training Camps

The Nigerian incident is by no means exceptional or unusual. As the Islamic Republic tries to establish military presence in strategic locations, it reaches out to relatively isolated African countries, or countries in a state of crisis, that possess important sea-ports or other strategic locations, and offers military cooperation, which includes the establishment of arms factories and military bases.

One example is Eritrea. Iran is paying special attention to the countries along the Red Sea coast, and in this context it is busy strengthening its ties with Eritrea. There have been reports that Iranian weapons, soldiers, ballistic missiles, submarines and naval vessels have been deployed to Assab in Eritrea. This development is causing considerable alarm in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. A Saudi newspaper article stated that “Sana’a fears an extensive plot aimed at turning the Red Sea region, especially the region near the Eritrean coast, into an area of Iranian influence, after a number of boats carrying arms intended for Houthi insurgents were captured”. According to some reports, Eritrea is also engaged in providing training to Houthi rebels, with the “support and supervision of Iran”, at training camps in several locations in the country.

Another example of Iran’s subversive activities in Africa, this time in the Sudan, was revealed in 2009 with the attack on a convoy of arms being transported from Iran to terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip. In an interview to the London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, in September 2009, Ghazi Salah al-Din, an advisor to the Sudanese president, admitted that Iran has arms factories in Sudan. Reports from May 2010 suggest that the Qods Force established a new arms factory in Sudan.During the 1990s it was estimated that there were at least ten training camps in Sudan, providing training to Hamas and other Iran-backed terrorist organizations.

In addition, a report on the Zimbabwe Mail from February 2010 quotes the Iranian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Rasoul Momeni, affirming Iran’s plan to establish a military base in Zimbabwe.

Shiitization: “The Aims of the Iranian Cultural Center are not Purely Humanitarian”    

In Africa, as in its operations elsewhere around the world, Iran is using the local Shiite population and Lebanese community. Not relying solely upon these groups, however, Iran is attempting to propagate its version of Shiite Islam in those African countries in which it operates through religious and cultural centres, working in cooperation with the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO) . The stated aims of the ICRO are “revival and dissemination of Islamic tenets and thoughts with a view to reaching the true message of Islam to the people of the world”. Continue reading

Suspected al Shabaab rebels raid Kenya police post

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on the South Lawn...

Image via Wikipedia

By Noor Ali | Reuters

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki (L), walks with the Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi (R) on arrival at the 16th Extra Ordinary Summit of IGAD Heads of state meeting on Somalia, in Addis Ababa November 25, 2011. REUTERS/Kumerra Gemechu

GARISSA, Kenya (Reuters) – Suspected Somali al Shabaab rebel fighters raided a police post near Mandera in northern Kenya Saturday, seizing weapons and burning a mobile phone transmission mast, security officials said.

The group of fighters attacked Arabiya, a trading centre 60 kilometres from Mandera, and engaged police in a firefight before overpowering them and taking all the guns and bullets from the local police post.

“Arabiya was attacked. We believe it’s al Shabaab. They destroyed, burnt a communication booster and took ammunition at the police post,” North Eastern Provincial police commander Leo Nyongesa told Reuters by phone.

There were no injuries or deaths reported.

Kenya ordered its soldiers across the border in October to crush the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab who it said had attacked its security forces and tourists inside Kenya.

ARRESTS

The latest incident comes days after grenade attacks in the frontier town of Garissa killed six, and a roadside bomb killed a soldier in Mandera town.

Nyongesa said police had arrested five people suspected to be involved in the Garissa attack. Continue reading

Captive Soldiers Tell of Discord in Libyan Army

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A tapestry of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi serves as a washroom mat at a rebel prison in Libya.

Bryan Denton for The New York Times

By C. J. CHIVERS Published: May 13, 2011

MISURATA, Libya — The army and militias of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who for more than two months have fought rebels seeking to overthrow the Libyan leader, are undermined by self-serving officers, strained logistics and units hastily reinforced with untrained cadets, according to captured soldiers from their ranks.

Several of the prisoners were wounded or beaten when captured by rebel forces, but the warden has pushed for better treatment.

In interviews this week in a rebel-run detention center where more than 100 prisoners from the Libyan military are housed, the prisoners consistently described hardships in the field and officers who deceived or failed them. They spoke bitterly of their lot. Continue reading