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Kenya ranked as one of the highest markets for heroin and a hotbed for organised crime by Interpol and European Union-backed report

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  •  Kenya demonstrates “large and diverse criminality profiles according to the Enact Organised Crime Index Africa 2019.
  • About 20% of African countries were found to have high resilience to organised crime and demonstrate low levels of criminality.
  • To measure a country’s risk to organised crime, the report considers economy, physical geography and natural resources, social cohesion and conflict, socio-demographics.

One of East Africa’s biggest economies is a hotbed for organised crime and among the world’s highest market for heroin.

According to a new Interpol and European Union-backed report on global crime trends, Kenya is featured prominently in the list of countries with the worst organised crime problems in the world. On a scale of 1 to 10, the African average for criminality is 4.97.  Kenya scoured 5.65 points in terms of criminality rankings.


Port of Mombasa

The Enact Organised Crime Index Africa 2019, launched on September 24th 2019, on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York says Kenya demonstrates “large and diverse criminality profiles” including high levels of corruption, crime-related violence and the presence of criminal actors.

“Organised crime has introduced a level of fragility that belies apparent strength of these three countries (Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria) economically and politically, and which undermines the democratic traditions and institutions that these countries have been building,” says the report.



The Enact Organised Crime Index Africa 2019. (courtesy)

The Index’s criminality rankings are calculated as the simple average of two subcomponents: criminal markets and criminal actors, which, in combination, generate a country’s overall criminality score. To measure a country’s risk to organised crime, the report considers a number of areas, namely economy, physical geography and natural resources, social cohesion and conflict, socio-demographics as well as global engagement and trade.

The report adds; “Organised crime groups exploit weak or dysfunctional State institutions, porous borders and disadvantages in social welfare and local political economies to continue and expand their operations.”

Countries and their crimes



A police road block in Kenya

The crimes of human trafficking, human smuggling (4.47), arms trafficking (5.24) and the cannabis trade (5.17) were found to be prevalent in almost every country in Africa, with specific hotspots. 

Libya and Eritrea stand out for human trafficking; Morocco, Tanzania and Sudan for cannabis production, distribution and use; the neighbouring countries of Sudan, Chad, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo score the highest for arms trafficking.

As a result of Kenya’s porous borders and weak government institutions the country together with Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa, which all border Indian Ocean are among the highest markets for heroin.

All is not lost



Tanzania Police arresting a civilian at a past event.

There is a sliver of hope for Kenya though and despite the high level of criminality the country continues to show high levels of resilience.  A number of African countries including Nigeria and South Africa despite being surrounded by countries with high levels of crime, have managed to successfully buffer themselves from the criminality of their neighbours.

About 20% of African countries were found to have high resilience to organised crime and demonstrate low levels of criminality, and the countries in this category are all significant because most lie close to states with serious challenges with organised crime, or have themselves been noted as hubs in the global criminal economy. 

Ghana, Tunisia, Ethiopia and Botswana all neighbour countries that are in the top ten of the criminality ranking. Rwanda is literally surrounded on all sides by high criminality, low resilience countries, yet it ranks 7th on the resilience index. 



Cape Verde is an archipelago which lies about 500km (300 miles) off the coast of Senegal and a former Portuguese colony which is home to half a million people

Cabo Verde faces the challenge of having been a trans-shipment hub in the transnational cocaine trade for decades, yet it comes first in the resilience index. In recent years, Seychelles was noted for being a centre for money laundering and illicit financial flows, yet committed investment has reduced those flows and made it a significant partner in regional maritime security efforts. 

“Criminality is measured as an average of two subcomponents, so, for other countries, such as Tanzania, Cameroon and Kenya, their high criminal market scores alone do not mean they are ranked among the highest scoring countries in terms of overall criminality (for which they were ranked 17th, 13th and 11th, respectively,” says the report.

“This would indicate that criminal markets alone do not necessarily play a driving role in organised crime in these countries, and that one also needs to consider the role of influential criminal actors.”