Friday, August 08, 2008

Cocaine trafficking in West Africa approaching crisis point?

Friends of Guinea blog has a piece on the drugs' cartels invasion of West Africa. Reprinted with permission.


The Washington Post has an article by the executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on a problem that's causing increasing concern: drugs trafficking in West Africa.

The sub-region has become a major transit point for cocaine smuggling between Latin America and Europe. Originally, activity was centered in Guinea-Bissau, a borderline failed state that has been without a strong central government for a decade.

However, The Post's article reports that the cartels are threatening to branch out into Guinea and Sierra Leone.

Last month alone, more than 600 kilos [of cocaine] were seized in a plane with fake Red Cross markings at the airport in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and at the international airport in Bissau, several hundred boxes were unloaded from a jet.

It notes that fighting this problem will be difficult.

Poverty is the biggest problem. These countries are the worst performers on the human development index -- their populations at the bottom of the "bottom billion." Unemployed and desperate youths are vulnerable to being recruited as foot soldiers for criminal groups. West African countries must take control of their coasts and airspace. This requires hardware (boats, planes and radar), know-how (investigative techniques and container security) and counter-narcotics intelligence. Some of these capabilities can be developed nationally, but some assistance will have to come from abroad.

Another obstacle is those countries' public institutions, which are weak and plagued by corruption.

TIME also ran a piece on Guinea-Bissau becoming West Africa's first narco-state as did the UK Independent. A Russian news site reported on the seizure of a ship ferrying a huge load of cocaine of the coast of Conakry earlier this year. The UN's Office on Drugs and Crime has a thorough report on the West African cocaine trafficking problem.

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