Sep 19, 2008, 6:42 AM
The Vice President and Minister of Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, yesterday presided at the opening of a three-day international seminar on the connection between terrorism and organized crime in West Africa.
Organised by the African Center for Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT), the seminar is hosted by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and brought together representatives of AU international partners in the field of the prevention and fight against organized crime and narco-terrorism, with the aim of strengthening capacities in Africa.
Underway at the Paradise Suites Hotel, the seminar seeks to provide a forum for African experts, allowing them to share their expertise and experience in the field of prevention and fight against organized crime in West Africa.
It intends to draw on the experience of experts and skilled professionals in the field, to discuss and to develop ways and means to combat the scourge of organized crime in West Africa.
It will also seek to identify the reasons, actors, vulnerabilities and factors that facilitate organized crime in West Africa and the neighbouring regions in Africa.
Declaring the seminar opened, Vice President Njie-Saidy said African governments have now embraced, with urgency, the need to come to terms with the day-to-day realities of terrorism and organized crime.
As a first step, she said, is the need to elicit the root causes and grave effects of the problems on human dignity, the economy and national sovereignty and, without delay, to devise coherent and holistic interventions to address the menace.
"At the level of the sub-region, Western Africa, which is no exception to the many scenarios of organized crime and terrorism, with its attendant consequences in Sahel-Saharan Africa, is characterized by massive cross-border trafficking of the illicit drugs inter alia," she added.
According to the Vice President, the situation is said to be exacerbated by, and or, aggravated by poor governance systems with resultant inertia of the judiciary and relevant state actors to systematically enforce the rule of law in ensuring the security and conducive environment for its citizenry.
She noted that the porous nature of borders, criminal activities justified as a viable and profitable means to overcome the poverty cycle, structural exploitation of the economy from natural resources, especially mining, coupled with patrimonial conception of the state attracts unscrupulous economic operators to engage in local and transnational networks, with the belief that money can buy everything, including impunity, security and political power.
At the national level, Vice President Njie-Saidy noted that the Gambia government is quite cognizant and alert to the emergence of West Africa, including The Gambia, as a hub for cocaine and other illicit drug trafficking between Latin American and Europe.
"The Gambia may not have been affected by direct terrorist attacks, but recent events proved that no country is immune to terrorism, one of the most serious threats of the 21st century," she explained.
She further told the seminar that government's spontaneous response to the scourge of organized crime and terrorism through the functional political will and commitment is quite visible and encouraging.
Numo Kujabi, Director General of the National Intelligence Agency, in his statement underscored the importance of the seminar.