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Widening rich-poor gap is new threat to EAC peace and security

24 May 2014, 08:03

Arusha - The widening gap between the rich and the poor has been described as a serious challenge towards peace and security in the East African countries, revealed a two-day East African Societies and Regional Security meeting which kicked off in Arusha on Friday.

Leonard Onyonyi, an expert with the EAC secretariat, cited lack of citizen's data in east African countries as among the main causes of insecurity in the region.

He said that terrorism was now ranked high as the most recurring threat of peace in the region and already, Kenya is experiencing daily attacks from this.

In his paper, Onyonyi revealed that apart from terrorism, the region was already suffering other chaotic drivers as mapped in the threat assessments and these include high rates of unemployment, ethnic conflicts, cattle rustling, wildlife poaching and banditry and insecurity in regional water bodies among others.

Abubakar Zein Abubakar, the chairperson of the EALA's Committee on Regional Affairs and Conflict Resolution (RACR), said there was clear link between poverty and conflicts in the region.

"This is an area that needs to be addressed in order to solve regional insecurity," the official stated, calling on EAC partner states to take extra efforts to address the deadly challenge.

"As ALC, we have started sensitizing the media and legislators in the region on matters related to peace and security," said Fumi Olonisakin, Director of the African Leadership Centre.

The meeting has been organized by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) and the African Leadership Centre (ALC), in collaboration with the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA) and the GIZ East African Community program.

The regional meeting is attended by nearly 100 delegates, including EALA members, EAC Secretariat officials, and high- ranking government officials of the Partner States, policy partners and representatives of the Civil Society Organizations.

The conference is analyzing the emerging security priorities, needs and challenges in the region addressing the feasibility of a new vision on regional security and sustainable and peaceful coexistence.

It further anticipates the comprehension of the long-term transformations occurring within East African societies and the corresponding effects on regional security.

The meeting hopes to build capacities of parliamentarians not only to better legislate but also to influence security and peace building initiatives in the region through parliamentary diplomacy.

Among the areas to be addressed are the pressures of migration, persisting refugees and the IDP question, dilemma of citizenships as well as the ever-changing demographic profiles.

The conference is a follow-up to a previous conference held in Bujumbura, Burundi in 2008 that focused on obstacles to peace in the Great Lakes Region.

"The idea of peace and security that emanates from this framing assumes a homogenous citizenship dominated by or obedient to the state. It imagines security provision as the preserve of the state or Regional Economic Communities constituted by or around the mutual agreement of states," a section of the concept paper states in part.

The conference takes place against a backdrop of increased insecurities with the Al Shabaab threat the greatest to peace and stability in the region.

Last year, a group of armed gunmen stormed the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, killing at least 67 people. The Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was a warning to Kenya to pull its troops out of Somalia.

- Xinhua


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