News and Information

US enlists Africans for global crime battle
November 9, 2004
November 09 2004 at 09:35AM

By Carole Landry

Otse, Botswana - The burly North Dakota investigator surveys the classroom of about 40 young African cops and asks: "Would you expect a suspect to look you in the eye when you are questioning him?"

The diverse replies come from trainees serving in police forces in Mozambique, South Africa, Angola and Botswana, the latest batch of law-enforcement officers to undergo training at a United States academy nestled near the Lenlitswe-la-Barantant mountains in Otse, about 45km south of Gaborone.

The International Law Enforcement Academy (Ilea) - a $7-million (R42-million) facility where about 30 instructors are bringing crime-fighting, American-style, to Africa - opened last year.

Run by the US department of homeland security, the Ilea in Botswana is one of three such academies - the other two are in Budapest and Bangkok - where the United States is trying to enlist allies in the fight against global crime.

"There has been a tremendous change in the world in the way we conduct economic affairs, in the way we communicate, in our ability to be mobile. The criminal establishment has capitalised on these changes to the extent that every nation is vulnerable to crime," said former New York police officer Seymour Jones, who is the director of the Ilea in Botswana.

While US law-enforcement training in Budapest has focused on organised crime and in Bangkok on drug-trafficking, the courses on offer in Botswana are aimed at "building capacity", said Jones, a euphemism for developing expertise in African law enforcement.

The six-week training course offers tips and techniques to crack trans-border crimes like money-laundering and trafficking in humans, drugs and arms.

Kenyan airport security officer Stanley Mutungi, attending a course on human trafficking, said it was an eye-opener. "We learned the tricks about how they come from Asia," he said.

Other special training sessions on counter-terrorism and intelligence-gathering allow students to do a case study of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that left 224 dead and more than 5 000 injured.

The twin attack has been blamed on al-Qaeda.

During classes on "human dignity", students are taught that "the police do not have the right to take the law into their own hands", said Jones.

So far, 1 100 police officers from 17 African countries, mostly from Southern Africa, have been at the Ilea in Botswana. Next year, the first trainees from the Democratic Republic of Congo are scheduled to attend.

"The plan is to cover all of sub-Saharan Africa," said Jones. - Sapa-AFP


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