Kigali, 4 August 2016

I am pleased to welcome you to the 13th Conference of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa.

I would like to thank the organisers, as well as all fellow member services, for the privilege of hosting this meeting in Rwanda. I hope that you enjoy your stay.

The high rate of participation here demonstrates that CISSA is both relevant and strong. This is as it should be, because there is nothing routine about the duty to protect our citizens and our public institutions from harm. Intelligence services are the custodians of national, regional, and global security.

Your commitments should be translated into action by disseminating the needed intelligence assessments to the African Union Peace and Security Council, in support of Agenda 2063, which reflects our common good as Africans, rather than narrow national interests.

Africa is part of the global security environment, which is characterised by multi-dimensional interests and threats that evolve rapidly and cut across national boundaries.

Terrorism, inspired by very harmful ideologies, and determined to radicalise our youth, is an ever-present danger. So is trans-national crime, such as wildlife poaching, human trafficking, drug smuggling, or cybercrime.

For a long time, some parts of the world seemed more important than others and the lives of the people there, somehow more valuable. International responses generally reflected that unspoken hierarchy.

But looking at the global state of affairs today, there is no longer any clear distinction between so-called strong and weak states.

We are all affected, and more importantly, everybody has an essential contribution to make in finding solutions. It all speaks to the complex interconnectedness of the world we find ourselves in.

The need for more and stronger cooperation across the world is clear. CISSA must adapt to these changing realities by sharing information amongst our respective services and beyond.

Security is the foundation, of everything else. That is why we will always require intelligence services that are capable, professional and collaborative.

The health of our economies and national institutions depends on the capacity to generate well-sourced analysis that allows policy-makers to address emerging issues.

Professionalism is what allows security agencies to serve the established constitutional order, rather than individuals and thereby earn the public’s trust. We should all aim to leave behind intelligence services, from which we have nothing to fear, even after we retire.

Finally, no country can ensure its security without working together closely with others. Today’s super-connected world brings fresh opportunities, but also new risks. Innovative technologies are increasingly accessible and affordable, equalising the playing field as never before.

This is why increased collaboration is paramount. It will enable us to eliminate gaps that make us, as a continent, more vulnerable to external subversion. It also allows us to more effectively manage our collective security, for the benefit both of ourselves and our partners worldwide.

Our main task is to protect life, preserve stability and build prosperity. We cannot afford to divert time and resources with unnecessary divisions amongst ourselves.

In this context, the theme for this year’s conference, on the abuse of universal jurisdiction, is highly appropriate.

Accountability for crimes, is a principle that the African Union endorses, without ambiguity. But politicising justice, and deploying it more or less exclusively against one continent, or pursuing it selectively for whatever reason, is not the answer.

It is more rightly seen, as a form of “lawfare”, where international law is abuse to keep Africa in a subordinate position in the global order.

Rwanda, like many other countries, has had more than its fair share and we do not expect it to stop anytime soon – but neither will it ever be acceptable to us.

What has been remarkable, and deeply appreciated, is the solidarity from Africa, not only in rhetoric, but also in actions.

These are challenges that we must confront jointly. The important thing is to define our interests and priorities, and continue to work together in unity to advance them.

You can count on Rwanda to play our part.

By its nature, your work is silent and thankless. In the name of many others, I would like to remind you, the intelligence and security services, that your efforts are highly valued and appreciated.

It is now my pleasure to declare the 13th CISSA conference officially open and wish you fruitful deliberations.

I thank you.