by Joseph Maina, Head of the EU CBRN CoE Regional Secretariat for Eastern and Central Africa (ECA), Nairobi
The African continent is now, more than ever before, mo- bilized to find common strategies to combat and mitigate threats posed by CBRN materials. The Covid-19 pandemic is a grim reality. Globally, countries have been alerted about the risk if they do not tackle the problem (CBRN threats) head on. This notwithstanding, a region’s collective response will only be as good as the commitment of governments, experts and national stakeholders to decisively and consciously mitigate the threats and challenges.
The Covid-19 pandemic not only complicates the existing peace and security challenges in many countries but also consti- tutes an additional security problem – especially for countries already dealing with security emergencies and re-emerging threats. In this fight no country or region can afford to wait for salvation to come from abroad: regional partnerships remain key enablers to global security, peace and stability.
The Project on nuclear security (P60)
The Eastern and Central Africa region (ECA) has two current active projects. One is focusing on medicine security (P66 – Combating falsified medicines in Eastern and Central Africa/ MEDISAFE), which is good work in progress at present.
The other project is focusing on nuclear security (P60 – Support to the EU CBRN Eastern and Central Africa Centre of Excellence in Nuclear Security). The overall long-term objective of P60 is to strengthen and harmonize the nuclear regulatory frameworks in the participating countries, to enhance their national nuclear safety and nuclear security regimes in support of the fulfilment of national obligations under international instruments.
At the very beginning of P60, a Steering Committee was estab- lished which reviewed and provisionally agreed on a detailed project work plan and logical regional implementation matrix. P60 Participating Countries (PC) created firstly a steering com- mittee and the project implementers have utilized regional and international subject matter events to engage National Focal Points (NFPs) and subject matter experts on project progress and direction. On the margins of the IAEA General conference in Vienna, Austria, in September 2019 a side event provided an opportunity for the Steering committee to meet with all kind of experts, (On-Site technical Assistance/OSA, NFPs, local and regional experts for high-level policy and professional interac- tion and EU) to exchange on EU CBRN partnerships in Africa dis- cussing P60 challenges. The project implementer established working contacts with the IAEA Technical Cooperation Depart- ment for Africa, to harmonize and synergize efforts of parallel IAEA programmes/projects for complementarity purposes and avoidance of duplicity.
The P60 Steering Committee is continuously reviewing pro- gress by committing to a roadmap on next activities.
The positive impacts of P60 have been boosted by an OSA team, with a regional professional key expert in the field, con- nected well with NFPs and local experts thus enhancing project ownership, making contributions focused, project outputs relevant and the impacts as desired and enduring.
Status review in ECA Participating Countries
Provision of a CBRN questionnaire to PCs and the initial assessment of the responses by project implementers formed the basis of expert missions in the responsive PCs. They had to collect information and assess the status in the areas of interest and scope for the CoE project P60.
This project includes respective national legal and regulatory frameworks, the safe and secure management of radioactive sources including disused and orphan sources, radioactive source inventory, source accountancy and control, search-iden- tify-recover-secure, national response plans in case of radiolog- ical emergencies, equipment needs for detection and identifi- cation of radioactive sources as well as safety and security of radioactive sources/radioactive waste in transport or storage. National Laws, draft legislations, Standing Operation Proce- dures (SOPs) and guidelines served as legal basis with collab- oration and coordination, as well as the roles and responsi- bilities, of different institutions reviewed to ensure clarity and avoidance of overlapping jurisdictions.
• CBRN and RN emergency plans
After a regional workshop on the emergency preparedness and response in 2018, the NFPs and experts from the Regulatory Authorities drafted CBRN and RN emergency preparedness and response plans for respective countries. This impacted the PCs positively as it enhanced and updated draft RN response plans for PCs that had already drafted such plans and gave a kick- start for those PCs who had not yet developed these plans.
It is important, and urged by the ECA Regional Secretariat, that the project implementor, NFPs and experts continue to engage and to exchange towards finalization of the process and to ensure that the CBRN/RN emergency plans are incorporated into the respective omnibus national disaster response/man- agement plans – an enduring impact for each PC.
• Successful exercises
With four field exercises on search, identify, recover and secure having been successfully conducted, observation is that a num- ber of PCs – notably Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda
– indicated that they had considerably improved their capabili- ties for the same. This translates to a significant impact on
• Identification of nuclear security gap
P60 has also resulted in identification of a notable nuclear security gap in the control of and accounting for radioactive sources in cross-border movement where border controls have been relaxed in the spirit of ‘ease of doing business’ within regional economic blocks. The project steering com- mittee acknowledged this and identified and set the stage for all stakeholders to engage and provide informed direction to address this challenge.
• Inventory of radioactive resources
P60 has made regulatory authorities in PCs more aware of the need for an exhaustive inventory of radioactive sources in en- hancing radiation protection, nuclear safety and nuclear secu- rity. PCs have re-evaluated own status and have acknowledged that much more needs to be done to complete their respective national inventories.
• Training on orphan sources
Table top exercises and field exercises in search, identifica- tion, recovery and secure of orphan sources provided a good opportunity for many local PC experts to train and participate in practical exercises and drills with sometimes with live agents in real life situations.
Enhancing national regulatory regimes in the region
Other positive impacts and improvements already observed in PCs include: drafting or review of legislations, RN emergency response plans; improvement of security of storage facili-
ties; enhanced capacity in PCs’ (trained and drilled officers in nuclear security – two specialists per PC trained as table top exercises). P60’s most notable impact is its contribution in empowering national radiological and nuclear regulators of PCs in the ECA region in enhancing their respective national regulatory regimes for nuclear safety and security towards good standing in the global safety and security network. As an example, Kenya has promulgated a new law that has enhanced the national nuclear regulatory framework and incorporated nuclear security in the regulatory scope.
Finally, the project implementor has already created a web- based platform for regional contacts and this platform is very useful for all those involved in the project. Brief summary reports of all missions and other activities conducted within this project are uploaded this platform.
ECA PCs, through the CBRN CoE Secretariat, express appreci- ation to EU DEVCO for the technical support in strengthening nuclear safety and security in the region.