Drugs Trafficking Triggers Abuse In W. Africa

By Dialogo
May 19, 2011

West African governments need to step up their tactics to fight the rise of drug use and manufacture in countries that have been used as transit hubs, officials said.

Ghana’s Minister of the Interior Benjamin Kunbuor said young people in West Africa are increasingly using cocaine, heroine and other psychoactive substances.

The region is also starting to cultivate and manufacture drugs in clandestine laboratories, he said.

“The situation is directly attributable to the spillover of growing trafficking activities in the region,” Kunbuor said at a regional conference on drugs.

“Drug Barons aren’t village chicken thieves. Whatever mechanisms we are putting in place to address the drug menace have to be equally sophisticated as what the barons have.”

The UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates up to 100 tons of cocaine may have been trafficked through the region in 2009 and that the value of trafficking flows sometimes exceeds the gross domestic product of some West African countries.

The Commissioner for Human Development and Gender for regional bloc ECOWAS, Adrienne Diop, said one member state has discovered small laboratories manufacturing party drugs like amphetamines and ecstasy. She did not say which country.

The United Nations in 2009 seized chemicals in Guinea, reinforcing suspicions that there were drugs laboratories in West Africa.

“It is not only cocaine consumption but they are also establishing these clinics in our countries. That is a new area that we have to go into and see how we can address it,” she told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

West Africa became a transit point between Latin American producers and European users at the beginning of the last decade because of its porous borders, weak security apparatus and poor infrastructure, she said.

“A region that trafficks, and where drugs transit, becomes a region that consumes,” she said.

“It is not a problem that a country or a region can resolve. It is an international problem. It’s worth billions of dollars and it is increasing every year. It is big money.”

UNODC says West Africa is also a major transit route for counterfeit medicines, the smuggling of commodities and people for sexual exploitation, and risks becoming a major safe haven for armed insurgent groups if the narcotics trafficking problem remains unaddressed.