#Ghana Outlaws #HumanTrafficking

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Ghana President John Atta Mills

Accra, July 5: An amendment to the Immigration Act which criminalises migrant smuggling in Ghana has won final approval from president John Atta Mills.

“It was necessary to criminalise migrant smuggling because it is a predicate offence for money laundering under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2008 (Act 749)” Mr William Kwasi Aboah, Minister for the Interior said on Thursday.

With the amendment effected, Ghana’s Immigration Act is now compliant with international standards on money laundering. Opening a two-day conference on Human Smuggling and trafficking organized by the Ghana Immigration Service ((GIS) in Accra, Mr Aboah in a speech read for him by Mr Kobby Acheampong, Deputy Minister for the Interior, thanked members of Parliament for passing the Bill under a certificate of urgency. The conference theme “Building Partnerships to Counter Human Smuggling and Trafficking in Ghana” was attended by staff of the Service nationwide, participants from Nigeria, the Diplomatic corps, and journalists.

The conference aims at building capacity of officers of the GIS and its partner agencies in the use of information-gathering, expertise in intelligence-gathering and skills as important tools for effectively tackling criminal networks that operate behind organised irregular migration. Mr Aboah noted that, with the world becoming a global village, it was faced with the implication of migration, interlinked by a web of interdependence, co-operation, collaboration and collective endeavours in many human activities.

This means no particular continent, regional or sub-regional group or country could work alone or survive on its own in dealing with migrants smuggling and human trafficking, which had become issues of alarming concerns in con temporary times. The Sector Minister therefore called for collaborative efforts in combating the phenomena of migrant smuggling and human trafficking as “a twin global canker.

“Considering the sophisticated nature of how the twin crimes are perpetrated with perfection and impunity, we all need to adopt multi-faceted partnership approaches if we are to achieve any remarkable successes in the fight against human smuggling and other forms of irregular migration in Ghana.”

He said strategies should also be put in place to eradicate the phenomenon, by dismantling the syndicated organizations that operate clandestinely behind the inhuman business of human smuggling and trafficking. Mr Aboah assured the GIS of government resources and support, to ensure that it delivered on its stated objectives of controlling and managing migration in Ghana effectively and efficiently,
with socio-economic development and national security interests as major concerns.

Dr Peter Wiredu, Acting Director of Immigration Service and Strategic Programme Manager, Thematic Programme, said human trafficking, which has ancient origins, had become a serious global menace impacting negatively on victims as well as on most developed and developing countries.

“What makes the phenomenon more serious is its potential to occasion the loss of precious lives of poor innocent people, who are often unduly taken advantage of by smugglers in their quest to seek so-called greener pastures and employment in developed countries”.

Dr Wiredu explained that human trafficking involves an element of force or deceit, with victims having no choice in being forced across territorial borders to be exploited.

Migrant smuggling is used by smugglers to obtain short-term financial or material benefit. The general practice refers to consensual transactions where the transporter and the transported agree to circumvent immigration control for mutual advantageous reasons.
Dr Wiredu said there was evidence that Ghana qualifies as a source, transit and destination country in the context of migrant smuggling and human trafficking, adding that the recent Libyan crisis and its subsequent mass evacuation of about 25,000 Ghanaians attest to the fact that Ghana was a really a source country.

He said between January 2010 and May 2012, 124 cases involving migrant smuggling were dealt with, through interception, by Immigration Officers at various entry points, especially at the Kotoka International Airport. He said the conference would serve as a way forward for Ghana as a country, to curb the disturbing emerging trends in migrant smuggling and human trafficking which was an inhuman menace.

Mr Claude Maerten, Head of the European Union Delegation in Ghana, said trafficking of human beings was an extremely serious crime, and a gross violation of human rights which could be classified as a modern form of slavery, and that the issue had become a priority for the EU. He said there was currently a global approach between EU Countries and Non-EU countries based on identification of common interests and challenges of human trafficking.

“Through the sharing of experiences, challenges and best practices on fighting the crime, this conference would provide the framework for sustaining the progress made on the menace into the future”, Dr Maerten added.

Madam Morgane Nicot , Associate Expert on Organized Crime and Illicit trafficking branch, UN Office on Drugs and Crime said Ghana had to notify the UN for ratifying the Immigration Amendment law to become the 131st country out of the over 200 countries which had ratified the law. She stressed on the need for the country to see to implementation of the law to duly punish traffickers to deter others from engaging in the practice and to continue to protect the victims.

Article 3 of the United Nations Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants define “migrant smuggling” as “Procurement , in order to obtain, directly or indirectly a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal entry of a person into a state Party of which the person is not a national of a permanent resident”.

GNA

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West African “Terror Threat”: After Decades, Anarchy Hasn’t Arrived

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While riddled with weak states, West Africa has not become the international terrorist playground some feared it would. That does not mean warnings about extremists should be overlooked however.

By Charlie Warren for ISN Security Watch


In 1994, journalist Robert Kaplan wrote a controversial Atlantic article, “The Coming Anarchy,” warning of West Africa’s ungoverned spaces, disease-ridden slums, weak borders, and impoverished masses. Kaplan declared that “we ignore this dying region at our own risk.” In 2004, Douglas Farah and Richard Shultz published a Washington Post op-ed that picked up the argument where Kaplan had left off. West Africa had become a terrorist sanctuary. Three years after the 9/11 attacks, the authors proclaimed, “weak and corrupt governments, vast, virtually stateless stretches awash in weapons, and impoverished, largely Muslim populations make the region an ideal sanctuary…The now-identifiable presence of al Qaeda in other countries shows that these once-marginal wars and regions matter. We ignore the warnings at our peril.”

2009 travel advisory raised the threat in and around Mali’s oft-quoted oasis town of Timbuktu to “high” Photo: REUTERS

History has not borne out this “coming anarchy” of terrorism, and West Africa is not rife with international extremism. Alas, the region is not beyond terrorism’s grasp either. This means several longstanding arguments about extremism in West Africa need to be carefully revisited.

Global extremism versus local grievances

Conventional wisdom separates transnational, Salafist-inspired terrorists from local, politically marginal insurgents. However, the available evidence in West Africa suggests one ought to view things differently. Even the most well connected Al-Qaeda affiliate in the Sahel and West Africa, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM), has a variety of influences. AQIM’s predecessor, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, wanted to depose the Algerian government. The group officially aligned itself with Osama bin Laden in 2006 and changed its name to AQIM in 2007.

Boko Haram, a Nigerian insurrection founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, has even more opaque influences. The group’s actual name provides one such example.Boko Haram is Hausa for ‘Western education is sinful,’ yet the group’s members seldom, if ever, use it. Adherents instead prefer Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad(‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’)—hardly a name conducive to the pithy labels preferred by governments or journalists alike. Northern Nigeria has also witnessed extremism in the recent past, so Boko Haram’s emergence is not groundbreaking either. During the early 1980s, millenarian uprisings led by Alhaji Muhammadu Marwa (also known as “Maitatsine”) left over four thousand people dead and included some similarities to Boko Haram’s rhetoric related to wealth, Western education, and the alleged graft of other northern Nigerian Muslims. Not unlike Boko Haram, Maitatsine’s revolts appealed to the young, disenfranchised northern Nigerians in cities like Kano, Kaduna, and Gombe. Thirty years after those uprisings, Boko Haram has played upon distinctly local concerns—including corruption, political isolation, and northern Nigeria’s relative poverty—with alarming success. While Boko Haram’s aims may be unique and ever evolving, its regional and religious contexts are not.

Since 2011, however, Boko Haram’s members have acquired some international practices: they recruit and deploy suicide bombers; they successfully bombed UN headquarters in Abuja; they carry out other mass casualty attacks; and they are alleged to have met with, and perhaps trained under, AQIM.

Analysts have spent a great deal of time attempting to draw the line between ‘Boko Haram the local insurrection’ and ‘Boko Haram the global extremist group.’ Splinters of Boko Haram may have contacted other terrorist organizations in an effort to engage in training, but it’s difficult to trace individual actions to truly coherent international ambitions. Worse still, it’s a distraction. Boko Haram is better understood as a diffuse group, ill-suited to international terrorist labels, including the US designation as an official Foreign Terrorist Organization . The false dichotomy surrounding Boko Haram not only narrows our definition of the violent extremist sect, but it also constrains our ability to find measured, evidence-based solutions.

Think-tanks label al-Shabab a “terror threat” but they are doggedly domestic. Photograph: Feisal Omar/Reuters

Borders and illicit Flows

At least four cross-border flows facilitate terrorism in the region. Weapons of varying types pervade West Africa, making the tools of violent extremism readily available. Semtex explosives can be purchased, and Nigerien authorities recently seized 1,420 pounds of the material and 445 detonators. As many as 15,000 of Muammar Gaddhafi’s stock of man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) are unaccounted for; some speculate that AQIM possesses stockpiles. Although MANPADS have brought down at least eight passenger planes in Africa, small arms have led to far more casualties. Perhaps millions of Kalashnikovs flooded gun markets following the Cold War, and Boko Haram has become yet another group to use them during its hundreds of deadly attacks since 2010.

Illicit transfers of money via remittances and cash happen, and there is little capacity to monitor all transactions in largely unbanked countries. With mobile money transfers, cell phones could also send and receive illicit funds, but the services are not yetwidespread.

West Africa’s drug smuggling routes provide opportunities for terrorist organizations to generate revenues. At least fifty tons of cocaine (worth $2 billion in Europe) travels through West Africa per year, with over one ton heading through the ‘narco-state’ of Guinea-Bissau every night. Colombia’s FARC and AQIM already traffic drugs across the Sahel and into Europe.

People also move across borders. Militants have fled Libya for the Sahel in large numbers. Kidnapping has proven to be a lucrative funding stream for AQIM, and they have made a business of capturing Westerners. AQIM has fetched ransoms as high as $6 million in one instance and acquired tens of millions of dollars in kidnapping fees since 2006.

Although weak borders may aid terrorists, two distinctions are essential. Smuggling and banditry are hardly new to the region: for years illegal goods have traveled over the Nigeria-Cameroon border and similar flows cross the Nigeria-Benin border. International boundaries are not completely leaky either. West African states may not exercise a uniform rule of law along their boundaries, but they do have an intricate web of roadblocks, some physical and others more bureaucratic. Analysts should not overstate Africa’s porous boundaries.

Political instability and terrorism

West Africa’s poverty and crime have preoccupied policymakers concerned with terrorism, but few have examined the role of political instability. The relationships between terrorism and a more common scourge in the region—electoral violence—are not well known. However, one can reason that prolonged election conflicts could create space for terrorist groups in more stable countries or, at the very least, distract politicians and security services. Nigeria’s tragic post-election violence of April 2011 provides one possible example. The strife thankfully stopped short of prolonged conflict, but it did sidetrack diplomatic approaches to handling Boko Haram.

Although scholars have not tested the relationship between electoral strife and terrorism, coups d’état and terrorism may have some connections. Recent anecdotal evidence from Mali and Guinea-Bissau suggest that coups can help terrorists. Mali’s March 22 overthrow of President Amadou Toumani Touré’s government was not a one-off event but rather the culmination of a northern Tuareg rebellion. (The coup’s leader, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, received military training in the United States.) Evolving power struggles among the FLNA, MNLA, Ansar Eddine, AQIM, and MUJWA make Mali’s future uncertain. Moreover, the coup set back counterterrorism efforts in the country, not to mention precipitated a democracy and human rights rollback. AQIM may have more control than ever before.

Meanwhile, Guinea-Bissau’s April 12 coup has worsened the security situation and diverted attention away from efforts to stem a growing drug trade. (In almost 40 years since independence, no president of Guinea-Bissau has finished a continuous term in office.) While it is difficult to predict the country’s future, its counternarcotics efforts show no signs of improvement in the near term.

However, if one overemphasizes the impact of recent government overthrows in West Africa, one ignores an important trend. Coups have declined steadily for decades. According to the Center for Systemic Peace’s dataset, there were twelve successful coups in West Africa from 1980 to 1990, ten from 1990 to 2000, and six from 2000 to 2010. Africa’s civil wars are also declining, and the region is not predisposed to conflict.

Efforts to combat terrorism in West Africa

Many analysts perpetuate the image of West Africa as a blank slate for counterterrorism experiments. Yet efforts have been ongoing for decades, and international, regional, and local frameworks already exist. UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001) established the Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) in an effort to stop terrorism in all of its forms. UN Security Council Resolution 1624 (2005) is designed to improve border security and encourage member countries to submit updates to the CTC. Unfortunately, West African countries provided irregular reports to CTC and even fewer reports per UNSCR 1624.

Other policies to stop terrorism predate the UN resolutions but have proven equally ineffective. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) first addressed terrorism in its 1992 Dakar declaration, and its 1999 Algiers agreement determined to “eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.” Regional groups include the West African Police Chiefs Corporation, the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, and ECOWAS’ Inter-Governmental Action Group Against Money Laundering in West Africa as well as its Committee of Chiefs of Security Service. Numerous challenges confront counterterrorism teams in West Africa, ranging from poor coordination among different bureaucracies, to limited access to INTERPOL records, to regional language barriers, to the failure to incorporate international terrorist financing regulations into local laws.

Understandably, many countries have volunteered to train West Africa’s police and security services. The US-led Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) provides military assistance while the African Union’s Defense and Security Division undertakes some technical evaluations; special forces from Canada and other countries [AH: Libya, France,  Spain] have trained Malian security services in the past.

Although developing capacity among local forces may be necessary, many West Africa security services have human rights records ranging from inconsistent to abysmal. In some egregious cases of extra-judicial violence, security services’ brutality may anger the same extremists that they seek to stop. More broadly, international support creates what one analyst described presciently in 2004 as “rent seeking” for counterterrorism funding: Countries depict themselves as victims of transnational extremism—not local terrorism—with the hope of receiving increased aid flows in return. When the Nigerian government depicts Boko Haram as an ‘international‘ terrorist organization in letters to foreign governments, it really seeks security aid and counterterrorism funding.

Despite reasonable evidence to the contrary—terrorist groups have diverse influences, weak borders are never totally porous, political instability may influence terrorism in complex ways, and security solutions can backfire—elements of Kaplan’s argument persist. In March 2012, New York Times Africa correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman wrote a book review entitled “Africa’s Dirty Wars.” Gettleman described most African rebels as “thugs” but positioned Boko Haram as a global threat. He further cautioned that “some of the most organized, disciplined, and ideologically sophisticated rebels are the Islamist extremists.” However, after decades of similar warnings, the “coming anarchy” of international terrorism has yet to arrive in West Africa. There is good reason to believe that it never will.