A major capacity building project of the World Customs Organization (WCO) drew to a close on 30 June 2020. Over more than two years, the West and Central Africa Security Project (WCA-SP) was able to enhance the security capability of 14 WCO Member Customs administrations in West and Central Africa.
The project focused on enhanced monitoring of trade in 14 chemicals that could be diverted for use in the illegal manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as the trade in detonators and transmitters.
Conferences were held to raise awareness of the important role played by Customs in responding to the threat of IEDs. Customs officers also received technical training enabling them to identify attempts at smuggling precursor chemicals and other components used to manufacture IEDs.
As with other WCO projects, a train-the-trainer approach was adopted to ensure that administrations could conduct their own national training, thus guaranteeing the sustainability of the project. Train-the-trainer courses brought together 37 representatives from all the participating countries who then began delivering courses in their respective home administrations.
To further strengthen the capacities of the participating administrations, field officers were also offered a range of equipment to aid in the detection of IED components and precursor chemicals. Some 20 high-tech Raman Spectrometers for the identification of explosive precursor chemicals were distributed, together with 9,900 disposable test kits designed to provide a similar capability in the field. In addition, 640 hand-held metal detector wands were deployed to assist in detecting weapons and IED components, particularly at land borders and sea ports.
In early 2020, the administrations participating in the project were given the opportunity to put what they had learned into practice and test their ability to identify illegal shipments during the WCO-coordinated Operation ALAMBA. In Marba, the language of southern Chad, the word “alamba” describes a collective fight undertaken by skilled men.
The operation resulted in 119 seizures of various chemicals and IED components: 39 metric tons of cyanide; 7.8 metric tons of explosive components; 5,200 metres of detonating cords; 1,052 litres of nitric acid, 660 igniter components; and 220 litres of hydrogen peroxide.
WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya noted that “This Project demonstrates what the WCO in close cooperation with a generous donor, Members and dedicated experts is able to achieve in the area of security and safety. The sustainable approach taken to capacity building will ensure that the counter-terrorism capability of Customs in the West and Central African region will continue to grow”.
Dr. Mikuriya went on to thank the 14 Customs administration for their strong engagement with the WCO and commitment to addressing ongoing security threats.
The WCA-SP was funded by the Government of Japan and benefited the Customs Administrations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo.