Combating cross border corruption – UNDP partners with national and local authorities to stop the vice

Oct 10, 2017

A man herds cattle in Moroto, Karamoja sub-region in North Eastern Uganda. (Photo Credit — UNDP Uganda 2015)

Moroto/Mbale - During the long dry seasons, the cattle keeping people of Karamoja will cross over into Kenya looking for water and pasture for their animals. The same is true for their brothers from the Turkana region of Kenya. This may sometimes result into conflict over the scarce water and pasture.

This is one of the challenges that East Africa’s porous borders face.

With globalisation, borders are now more open allowing easier movement of people, goods and capital among other things. While this is great for trade, border control authorities also have to deal with the challenges it comes with which include human and drug trafficking and illicit flow of firearms linked to terrorist and extremist groups.

These challenges are made worse by widespread corruption along these borders, a root cause that enables these activities to thrive.

To address this issue, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is partnering with the Inspectorate of Government to combat cross border corruption in local border communities.

Efforts to combat this vice started with a cross border study to identify major challenges in the Karamoja – Turkana region. It was followed by a cross border dialogue between government authorities and Civil Society Organisations which culminated into a training workshop and awareness campaign to educate local authorities from Karamoja and the Turkana region in Kenya on the dangers of cross border corruption.

These engagements were held in Moroto and Mbale districts in North Eastern and Eastern Uganda from July to September 2017.

“Borders have become a pathway to corruption,” Mr. George Bamugemereire, the deputy Inspector General of Government said while opening the Moroto dialogue.

He pointed out that criminals were now able to escape justice by crossing borders using modern transport and that is why fighting cross border corruption required the collaboration of all stakeholders.

Ms. Almaz Gebru, the UNDP Uganda Country Director also called on combining efforts to fight cross border corruption and called on all concerned parties to join this fight and not to leave it to government and its institutions alone.

“This is because corruption affects service delivery,” Ms. Gebru noted.

Delegates drawn from Uganda and Kenya’s border authorities as well as civil society organisations agreed to; coordinate, enforce existing laws and harmonise policies to effectively combat cross-border corruption.

While opening the Mbale training workshop, Hon. John Byabagambi, the Minister for Karamoja Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister noted that “These trainings should enable us to come up with new, yet simple and innovative, ways of dealing with the issue of cross border corruption within a disintegrated social cohesion along the borders.”

He added that increasing engagement between the local community leaders and the law enforcement officials would go a long way in preventing cross-border movement of extremist fighters as well as illicit goods whose proceeds are many times used to finance criminal activities.

“This training is premised on the understanding that prevention of corruption works better than law enforcement, therefore this training should equip you to detect, combat and prevent it,” Hon. Byabagambi told participants.

Ms. Mariam Mutonyi Wangadya, the Deputy Inspector General of Government said that a cross border approach is critical for engaging communities as well as local authorities at the borders so that they are able to develop their own local solutions to address the challenge of cross border corruption.

“We hope that this training will improve cross border accountability through creating awareness among the communities and authorities enabling us all to work together to fight corruption as well as extremism,” she said while emphasizing the importance of interagency collaboration.

“It is only when institutions work together that we will be able to effectively address the governance challenges that lead to cross border corruption,” Ms. Wangadya said.

Participants in the engagements called for border demarcation, strengthening policing to monitor the borders, improving complaint handling procedures when corruption is reported as well as increasing partnerships and community awareness as a way of building their confidence in local authorities in the fight against cross border corruption. These, they believe, would be a good first step towards fighting the vice.

The participants from both sides of the border will work together to develop joint action plans to enable them to address cross border corruption.

These engagements are intended to provide a much needed platform for local authorities to learn new technics in identifying and preventing cross border corruption. With this, UNDP hopes to build the relationships between local authorities across the borders and their communities so that the challenges that come with living along the borders can be addressed at the community level.

“Success by Uganda and Kenya in working together to address our cross-border challenges can and should provide a sound basis to explore opportunities to widen the scope of this effort to include Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Tanzania,” Ms. Gebru said.

The cross-border corruption initiative is part of UNDP’s efforts both at regional and country level to support governments in their fight against corruption, violent extremism and other illicit activities that are hampering the peace and economic growth of Africa. It is supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the UNDP Regional Service Centre in Addis Ababa.

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