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Regional Experts Endorse East Africa Anti-Terror Plan - 2003-07-01


Delegates at an anti-terrorism conference in Kenya have expressed approval of a regional plan to fight terrorism in east Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Participants at the conference in Nairobi told VOA they are pleased that countries in the region are taking a common approach in the fight against terrorism.

A political scientist at the University of Nairobi, Professor Maria Nzomo, said countries in eastern Africa can make a more effective contribution toward combating terrorism and other crime if they work together.

"If you have to get to the U.N. and begin to be part of those global strategies, you need to come as a strong unit, not just like small states - and these are all very small states. That is power in itself in terms of negotiating conventions, have a common and collective global approach," said Professor Nzomo.

But she cautioned that there is much to be done before the countries can work together effectively. For example, the Kenyan government has just drafted controversial anti-terrorism legislation that analysts predict might be difficult to pass.

Representatives from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda met in Ethiopia last week at a conference organized by IGAD, the regional Inter-Governmental Authority on Development.

The countries agreed to develop common anti-terrorism legislation, set up a joint database tracking suspected terrorists and criminal activities and tighten security along borders.

Britain's high commissioner to Kenya, Edward Clay, said these measures show the countries are capable and committed to fighting terrorism.

"I think they are very useful," said the official. "If people get into the habit of regarding terrorism like an infectious disease, and cooperate against it on a regional basis, that is probably as good an approach to getting an international coalition with a meaningful commitment to combating terrorism."

Kenya has been the scene of two terrorist attacks in recent years. Last November, 16 people were killed in a suicide bombing of a hotel on the country's east coast. In 1998, 231 people died when terrorists attacked the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

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