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INTERPOL and AFRIPOL collaborate in joint action against cybercrime

Law enforcement officials from 27 INTERPOL countries joined forces in the Africa Cyber Surge Operation to counter cybercrime across the continent. 

Against the backdrop of the huge financial losses suffered by companies, businesses and individuals, the four-month operation (July to November 2022) saw officers detect, investigate and disrupt cybercrime through coordinated law enforcement activities utilizing INTERPOL platforms, tools and channels, in close cooperation with AFRIPOL. 

Operational Results 

Coordinated from an INTERPOL Command Centre in Kigali, Rwanda, the operation focused on removing the enablers of cybercrime.

Among the operational highlights: 

  • 11 individuals were arrested, with one suspect linked to the abuse of children, and 10 others linked to scam and fraud activities worth USD 800,000 which had an impact on victims globally.
  • Authorities in Eritrea took down a Darknet Market that was selling hacking tools and cybercrime-as a-service components.
  • Multiple cryptocurrency scam cases were resolved in Cameroon, including one with an estimated financial impact upon the victim of more than CFA 8 million.
  • Tanzania recovered more than USD 150,000 of victims’ money from data infringement and copyright cases.
  • Action was taken against more than 200,000 pieces of malicious cyber infrastructure which facilitate cybercrime across the African Region. This included the takedown and clean-up of malicious
  • infrastructure linked to botnet activity, and the dissemination of mass phishing, spam and online extortion activities (e.g. romance scams, banking scams and theft of data) to potential victims. 

Participating countries were able to improve their own national cyber security by patching network vulnerabilities and cleaning-up defaced government websites and securing vulnerable critical infrastructure, thereby reducing the risk of potentially catastrophic attacks. 

Actionable intelligence 

Investigations were shaped by intelligence provided by INTERPOL’s private sector partners including British Telecom, Cyber Defense Institute, Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs, Group-IB, Kaspersky, Unit 42-Palo Alto Networks, Shadowserver and Trend Micro. 

The information also contributed to the development of 28 INTERPOL Cyber Activity Reports that highlighted the various threats and types of criminal activity and outlined the recommended actions to be taken by national authorities. 

Participating investigators worked in their home countries in collaboration with National Cyber Emergency Response Teams, Internet Service Providers and Hosting Providers who were notified of the potential vulnerability in their network infrastructure within their jurisdictions. 

This collaboration proved very successful with 80% of identified ISPs engaging with law enforcement to mitigate the risks, identify weaknesses in their infrastructure and notify customers. 

Coordinated from an INTERPOL Command Centre in Kigali, Rwanda, the operation focused on removing the enablers of cybercrime

Of the participating countries, 18 have recognized Cyber Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), all of whom are actively working with law enforcement agencies and ISPs. Agreements have been set up between these organizations to formalize future responses. 

INTERPOL platforms 

An INTERPOL coordination team on the ground in Kigali offered real-time support, while investigators from participating countries made use of INTERPOL’s secure Cybercrime Collaborative Platform for Operations to update each other on progress, share intelligence and receive support. 

The Cyber Surge operation not only brought together many African member countries for the first time in a unified cybercrime operation but also helped build trust and establish valuable working relationships between them and with other partners. 

Developing capacity 

The Operation was preceded by a two-week training event in Kigali, Rwanda, which covered both cybercrime and cryptocurrency investigations. Delivered to 23 law enforcement agencies from 22 African countries, the course equipped participants with the knowledge and skills necessary for the Operation itself and will enable them to take proactive and sustainable action in the future. 

A debrief meeting held in Mauritius at the end of November allowed member countries to share successes, discuss challenges and identify areas for improvement. 

The Cyber Surge activities have also led to newly introduced legislative protocols and the establishment of a series of Cybercrime departments in member countries, which will further contribute to reducing the impact of cybercrime and protecting communities in the region. 

Acknowledgments 

The Africa Cyber Surge Operation was coordinated by INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Directorate and INTERPOL Support Programme for the African Union (ISPA) in collaboration with AFRIPOL. 

The Operation and related events were funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and the German Federal Foreign Office as part of their ongoing support to INTERPOL and AFRIPOL. Distributed by APO Group on behalf of INTERPOL.

ODM leader Raila Odinga (centre) accompanied by Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (right) and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi addresses the media at Jaramogi Odinga Foundation in Nairobi. PHOTO/Gerald Ithana.  

Azimio la Umoja - One Kenya coalition leader Raila Odinga on Friday, November 25, vowed to continue defending four electoral commissioners facing ouster over their conduct in the August presidential election.

The former Prime Minister made the remarks after President William Ruto told off the Azimio boss for opposing the hearing of four petitions lodged against the officials of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) at Parliament. 

In a tweet, Ruto asked the Azimio leader to keep off the process, saying under his administration the rule of law will have a say and "not the wishes of big men".

The Head of State alleged that Raila used the March 2018 political truce with retired President Uhuru Kenyatta to undermine oversight institutions in the previous administration.

"The lords of impunity, who destroyed oversight institutions using the handshake fraud, should allow parliament to hold rogue officials who put the nation in danger by subverting the democratic will of the people to be held to account," Ruto said in a tweet. 

"New order is RULE of LAW not wishes of big men."

 

But in a swift rejoinder, Raila maintained that the petitions seeking the removal of the commissioners were politically motivated to influence the outcome of the 2027 elections.

"There is due process and natural justice, things aren't just done at the whims of the executive. The rule of law must prevail and not your jungle laws that you want to institute so as to subjugate Kenyans to a conveyor belt system of elections come 2027. We shall not relent," Raila replied in a tweet. 

'Cherera four'

The four, IEBC Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera, commissioners Irine Masit, Justus Nyangaya, and Francis Wanderi, rejected the presidential results announced by IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati on August 15, claiming the final tallying of the results was opaque. 

The four also filed affidavits supporting Azimio’s unsuccessful petition challenging Ruto’s win at the Supreme Court.

They have been summoned to appear before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) for a hearing on four petitions seeking their removal from office for, among others, gross misconduct and abuse of office.

Yesterday, Raila, who attended the JLAC session, warned of a sustained fightback if Parliament proceeds with its plan to investigate the commissioners.

Flanked by Azimio top brass including Martha Karua and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila said the decision by the committee to summon the commissioners would be vehemently opposed.  

Raila claimed the Legal Affairs Committee was being used by the ruling administration to go after the four for rejecting Ruto’s win.

“The injustice being inflicted on the four IEBC commissioners, if it proceeds as currently conceived, will mark the beginning of a massive pushback against Ruto and those who think like him, by the people of Kenya. We will openly and robustly lead that pushback,” Raila said.

He defended the four saying they had not been found culpable of any electoral malpractice. He instead redirected blame to Chebukati who, he said, was the only one indicted by the Supreme Court.

“The Ruto administration wants to take us back to the Nyayo regime of the 1980s. We want to sound a warning that no one should lie to this regime that we will sit back and watch a return to the Nyayo regime by another name,” Raila said.

Karua, who was Raila’s running mate in the elections, said the committee’s actions were politically motivated. According to her, it was an attempt to block Cherera, the IEBC’s vice-chair, from running the commission once Chebukati retires early next year.   

“This witch-hunt in Parliament is intended to prevent the vice-chairperson from taking over as provided for by the law,” she said.

Kalonzo, on his part, said the hearings were politically motivated. By , People Daily

 

 

JUBA – A prominent South Sudan activist has expressed disappointment at the government in Juba for suspending peace talks with holdout opposition groups in Italy and said the government decision to pull out of talks is a great disappointment to Pope Francis.

South Sudan government in a letter addressed to the community of Sant’Egidio, the mediator, said it is suspending talks with rebels and accused them of buying time with the peace talks in order to prepare for an all-out war against the government.

In a statement, the Executive Director of Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO) Edmund Yakani said he is disappointed by the government withdrawal from peace negotiations with opposition groups and said disagreements at the talks should be handled without the need to suspend the initiative.

“CEPO is so disappointed about the suspension of the Rome peace talks by the government. It is essential that Rome peace talks should continue whatever the disagreement is among the conflicting parties to the Rome peace talks under the community of Sant’Egidio,” Yakani said in the statement extended to Sudans Post.

“The Rome peace talks is part of the action to deliver the kiss of Pope Francis on the feet of our political leaders. The suspension of the Rome peace talks is a demotivation of the spirit for successful transitional process in South Sudan from violence to peace,” the statement added.

Yakani further pointed out that time was running out and that the leaders owes responsibility towards their people to achieve peace in the world’s youngest country and that differences between the government and the opposition groups should be resolved amicable.

“Time has come for our political leaders to take primary responsibility for making peace prevail. The option of resolving political differences through the use of gun is harmful to the society and human growth,” Yakani stressed.

“Finally, CEPO is urging the members of the 6th governors forum to help in lobbying the government to get to the table of Roma peace talks,” the CEPO statement further said. - Sudans Post

An affordable housing project in Ngara, Nairobi, on December 4, 2020. Salaton Njau | Nation Media Group Court Reporter Nation Media Group/PhotoCourtesy

The government’s plan to accelerate its affordable housing agenda has suffered a setback in court after a judge quashed a law that allows members of retirement schemes to use a portion of their savings to purchase residential houses. 

The court also stopped implementation or enforcement of the amendments introduced to the Retirement Benefits Act No. 3 of 1997, which allowed the retirement benefits industry to help fill the housing gap.

Justice Anthony Ndung’u found that the amendment to the law was achieved through an irregular and flawed parliamentary process because MPs failed to allow public participation in the enactment process.

The amendment was introduced through the Tax Laws Amendment Act 2020, which came into effect on April 25, 2020, and the objective was to cure the large housing gap.

The government’s aim in amending the law was to boost home ownership and lift the sluggish property market by enabling members of retirement schemes to purchase and own homes using their savings.

 
Changes to pension laws were also meant to make it easier for individuals to buy their first homes given that most households are unable to raise the minimum house purchase deposit or afford the typical monthly mortgage payments.

To bring the amended law into force, former Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani published the Retirement Benefits (Mortgage Loans) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 showing the rules and limits for accessing pension savings for home purchase. The regulations were published on September 14, 2020.

Pensioners were allowed to use up to Sh7 million or a maximum of 40 percent of their retirement savings to buy a home from an institution and real estate investors.

An institution was defined in the regulations to include banks, mortgage or financial institutions, building societies, microfinance institutions, the National Housing Corporation, institutions approved by the Retirement Benefits Authority or any other entity offering a residential house for sale. 

Homes constructed or financed by the government, saccos, insurers and entities running tenant purchase arrangements were also among those that could be purchased using retirement money.

But while ruling in a case filed by Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah challenging the legality of the amendments, Justice Ndung’u found that the changes were premised on a flawed process adopted by Parliament. At the time the suit was filed in May 2020, Mr Omtatah was a human rights activist.

The suit was also supported by the Association of Retirement Benefits Scheme and the Association of Pension Trustees and Administrators, who argued that the amendments were not sustainable considering the status of current retirement schemes.

Justice Ndung’u found that the amendments did not go through what the law requires for enacting legislation, including public participation, and was introduced in Parliament through the Committee of the Whole House, barring stakeholders from publicly participating.

“The amendment of Section 38 (1A) of the Retirement Benefits Act (1997) was an amendment impacting heavily the utilization of funds in pension schemes. It thus would call for a robust process of stakeholder engagement and public participation,” said the judge.

“The introduction of the amendment at the committee stage denied the players in the industry, stakeholders and members of pension schemes the opportunity to contribute to the content of the envisaged law.”

The judge said the amendment was flawed because Parliament failed to involve members of the public during the enactment as required by Article 118 (1) of the Constitution. 

That provision requires Parliament and its committees to conduct their business and sittings in an open manner and facilitate public participation.

Justice Ndung’u of the Judicial Review Division of the High Court said Parliament fell afoul of the constitutional provision by failing to allow public views.

“My humble view on the matter is that the court would be abdicating its constitutional role if it was to watch with inaction as Parliament conducts its constitutional mandate of lawmaking without having due regard to constitutional ethos and statute as well as its own set procedures under the Standing Orders,” said the judge.

“Such derogation must be amenable to judicial review or a declaration of unconstitutionality as the case may be.”

However good-intentioned Parliament may be in making laws, he said, if the process is legally flawed, courts must step in and defend the rule of law.

The judge barred the National Assembly, the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary, the Attorney-General and others from implementing or enforcing the law and the regulations. 

Photo Courtesy 

The Luanda summit on the security crisis in eastern DR Congo has ordered the FDLR, a terrorist group composed of remnants responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, to disarm immediately and embark on an "unconditional repatriation".

The summit took place in the Angolan capital Luanda on Wednesday, November 23. It was attended by heads of State including Presidents João Lourenço, the host, Felix Tshisekedi of DR Congo, Evariste Ndayishimiye of Burundi, Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta, who represented President Paul Kagame, and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is the facilitator of the East African Community-led peace process.

The summit was convened to deliberate on the pacification of the eastern Congolese provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri, where over 120 armed groups operate. A communique released after the leaders' consultation says they expressed their concern about "the persistence of negative and terrorist forces in the eastern DRC, which constitutes a threat to peace, security, and stability in the sub-region."

They decided that all local and foreign armed groups should put down weapons. In particular, three foreign armed groups, FDLR from Rwanda, RED-Tabara from Burundi, and the ADF from Uganda, were mentioned.

"FDLR-FOCA, RED-TABARA, ADF, and other armed groups operating on Congolese territory shall immediately lay down their arms and initiate their unconditional repatriation," the statement read in part. 

It added that the repatriation will be under the terms of the Nairobi peace process and supported the United Nations mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO).

The Rwandan government has over the past months accused the Congolese army FARDC of collaborating with the FDLR and in the recent past created a coalition against the M23 rebel group.

Kinshasa accuses Kigali of supporting the M23 - an accusation that Rwanda has vehemently denied.

ALSO READ: M23 claims capture of FDLR strongholds

The summit resolved that the M23 rebels who are fighting the Congolese army in North Kivu province shall withdraw from the occupied territories.

The statement says the summit decided the "cessation of hostilities in general, and in particular of attacks against the FARDC and MONUSCO from Friday, 25th of November 2022 at 18hoo".

If the M23 refuses to withdraw, the leaders said they shall authorize the use of force to compel the group to comply." By Moise M. Bahati, The News Times

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