Magazine article New African

Criminals Beware, Interpol Is Wiring Up Africa: Ibrahim Seaga Shaw Went to Interview the First African-American (in Fact the First American of Any Colour) Secretary General of Interpol, Roland Kenneth Noble, at the Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France. He Reports on How Interpol Is Wiring Up Africa to Its New Ultra-Modern Communication System to Combat African and International Crime

Magazine article New African

Criminals Beware, Interpol Is Wiring Up Africa: Ibrahim Seaga Shaw Went to Interview the First African-American (in Fact the First American of Any Colour) Secretary General of Interpol, Roland Kenneth Noble, at the Interpol Headquarters in Lyon, France. He Reports on How Interpol Is Wiring Up Africa to Its New Ultra-Modern Communication System to Combat African and International Crime

Article excerpt

Interpol is the largest international police organisation in the world. Set up in 1923 to facilitate cross-border criminal police co-operation, the organisation today has 181 members spread over five continents. It supports and assists all organisations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime.

Interpol's priority areas are public safety and terrorism, criminal organisations, drug-related crimes, financial and hightech crime, trafficking in human beings, and fugitive investigation support.

There are over 200 Interpol liaison offices throughout the world. The majority of these are known as National Central Bureaux (NCBs). An NCB is the national hub for international co-operation against crime. It is financed and maintained by the authorities in each member country and is likely to have local operational police officers on the staff.

Interpol has a long history of activity and co-operation in Africa. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that the continent's position as a crossroads between the Americas, Europe and Asia lays it open to transnational crimes such as weapons and illicit drug trafficking, illegal immigration, trafficking in stolen motor vehicles and fraud which can only be stopped by international police cooperation.

Following the assumption of duty in November 2000 by Ronald K. Noble, as secretary general of Interpol, the organisation has undertaken a more robust involvement in Africa, especially in the area of improving communication and information exchange among member states to prevent or combat international crime.

Until Noble came into office, Interpol had been working on an antiquated system called X-400 which was put in place in the early 1990s. Now, thanks to Nobles foresight, Interpol has a new internet-based "I-24/7" communication system that works around the clock in a fast and secure manner.

According to Alison Bernard, Interpol's communications' manager, "the new system, technologically, is very simple, but the difficulty is putting the equipment in place in developing countries and helping them to understand it.

The "I-24/7" system was a major discussion point at the 17th Interpol African Regional Conference held last month in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, from 23-25 July, attended by senior African police officers and security experts.

Stanley E. Morris, the "I-24/7" programme director, said Interpol's priority was to get most African countries connected to the system "at least within a year".

Work on connecting South Africa and Botswana is at an advanced stage and nearing completion. "There is generally the political will on the part of African police chiefs to embrace this new exciting project," Morris said, adding that the installation of the equipment would come simultaneously with the training of personnel co-ordinated by Interpol's sub-regional bureaux in Abidjan, Harare and Nairobi.

When our correspondent, Ibrahim Seaga Shaw, met with Ronald K. Noble, he first asked him about Interpol's initiatives to improve information exchange with its African member countries.

Roland Noble: The first initiative which was put in place a couple of years ago involved the cancellation of all debts owed by member countries, including a large number of African countries, who couldn't participate in all Interpol activities because they hadn't paid their debts. We wanted to make sure that all the members in the world were full participants.

Secondly, we rescheduled the dues of member countries. By doing so, we reduced the dues obligation of poorer countries by almost 75%. This allowed them to use the money that they would otherwise have paid to Interpol to improve their police systems.

Thirdly, we are putting in place the Interpol I-24/7 communication system in our offices around the world. That system allows member countries to use the internet and state of the art technology to send or receive cryptic messages that cannot be read by unauthorised persons. …

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