Africans Meet to Work out Plans for Anti-Terror Strategy

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya (CNSNews.com) - Kenya has urged its regional partners to share intelligence and increase security cooperation in order to reduce the risk of further terrorist attacks.

The appeal came shortly after Kenya marked the sixth anniversary of terrorist bombings on United States embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, the capital of neighboring Tanzania.

Speaking at a regional counter-terrorism gathering, Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori said African countries must not shy away from imposing collective economic measures and even taking military action against terror-supporting countries.

"We seek regional partnership in order to consolidate and harmonize our approaches to terrorism and counter-terrorism," he said. "Good intelligence and cooperation are essential."

Kenya has been hosting intelligence chiefs from more than a dozen African countries for a week-long conference to deliberate on a common regional anti-terrorism strategy.

The head of Kenya's National Security Intelligence Service, Brig. Wilson Boinet, argued that laws relating to banking, the registration of persons and the issue of identity cards must be revised.

The officials agreed that Africa required a strong legal anti-terrorism framework respecting civil liberties yet strong enough to define terrorism as a special crime.

Only a few African countries, Uganda and Tanzania among them, have legislation dedicated to prosecuting crimes of terrorism.

Kenya's counter-terror legislation is still in the pipeline, having run into criticism from campaigners calling it anti-Muslim and charging that it will likely violate individual freedom.

Security experts have in the past called for a common African strategy to facilitate sharing of intelligence.

Kenya has admitted that its fight against terrorism is greatly hampered by a shortage of information from neighboring countries.

Countries participating in the meeting included Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, Madagascar, the Comoros, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Djibouti.

Kenya suffered its worst terrorist attack in August 1998, when U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked simultaneously, killing 269 people, including 12 Americans.

Another 5,000 people were injured in the bombings, for which the U.S. holds Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network responsible.

During this year's commemoration of the 1998 event, a handful of survivors and their relatives gathered at the August 8 Memorial Park in downtown Nairobi, where the embassy had been located before it was destroyed.

At the ceremony, survivors like Royce Nyambu expressed disappointment at the amount of help received from the Kenyan government.

"Life has become a struggle, yet our government appears to have forgotten us," she said.

Evanson Gitu, a pastor and spokesman for survivors, expressed disappointment that no senior government official attended the event.

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy laid a wreath at the former embassy site.

Since the attack, the U.S. government has spent $50 million in compensation to survivors and to rehabilitate destroyed buildings.

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