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IOM Launches Project to Tackle Organized Crime on Lake Victoria

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched a sub-regional project on detecting and deterring transnational organized crime (TOC) on Lake Victoria in Kenya, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania.

The project is expected to improve the coordination between national border authorities in the three countries to address TOC, enhance the management of Lake Victoria’s ports, and increase capacity of frontline officials through specialized border security trainings. It will also improve engagement between border authorities and maritime border communities to tackle TOC and challenges related to facilitation of cross-border trade.

Lake Victoria, shared by the three countries is the world’s second largest tropical freshwater lake. It supports the livelihoods of an estimated 40 million people in East Africa. Even so, it is faced with a myriad of challenges, including evolving cross-border threats and transnational criminal networks, combined with limited operational capacities and resources, and gaps in border security infrastructures. Hence this three-year initiative, which is funded by the United States of America Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

The benefits of the project will not just be felt in the three countries, but also in neighbouring regions that are especially prone to TOC.

“If we are to harness the benefits of Lake Victoria’s “Blue Economy” and enjoy collaborative and inclusive growth within the East African Community region, a safer lake region, then building solid foundations today for tomorrow’s improvement is a major investment area, which is the major proposition of this project,” said Marcellino Ramkishun, IOM ‘s Regional Thematic Specialist for Immigration and Border Management. 

The project will comprehensively assess the existing capacities and gaps in infrastructure, governance structures on Lake Victoria in and between the three countries. National assessments will identify urgent interventions to be undertaken at the specific sites.

In Kenya, the project will specifically carry out activities in Kisumu, Usenge, Mbita, Muhuru Bay and Sio ports. In Uganda, activities will centre around the ports of Jinja in the east, Kasensero in the south, and Port Bell in Kampala. In Tanzania, the focus will be the ports of Mwanza North and Mwanza South, Musoma and Kagera.

Still, the project will build the capacity of government officials from the three countries mainly on maritime security, detection of document fraud, and combatting TOC.

Border management authorities will develop a better understanding of how maritime communities perceive border security, as part of efforts to engage these communities as partners in securing the lake.

Parvathy Sankar, deputy director of INL Kenya, congratulated the three governments for taking on what she described as a challenging but essential task noting that “taking shared responsibility and enhancing intelligence and information sharing will we be able to protect the communities living along the Lake Victoria.”

Marcellino Bwesigye, Uganda’s Assistant Commissioner for Migration said “There is need to improve surveillance and coordination in terms of law enforcement [on Lake Victoria].” 

“The launch of this project bolster efforts to deal with threats of TOC on Lake Victoria,” noted Alexander Muteshi, Kenya’s Director General of Immigration Services.

“Enhancing the maintenance of machines, boats and other tools will help us make those kinds of operations along Lake Victoria,” observed Msafiri Raymond Shogholo, from the Tanzania Police Force.

Sharon Dimanche, IOM Kenya Chief of Mission, said the project will contribute to enhancing close cooperation among the three countries through “facilitating regular interactions, joint activities, and sharing of best practices.”