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Drug Route Through West Africa

The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board reports that West Africa has overtaken East Africa as the hub of a major flow of illicit drugs from South America into Europe.

According to the INCB’s 2007 Annual Report, every year, two to three hundred tons of South American cocaine is smuggled to West Africa where it is stockpiled and repackaged for export to markets in Europe. Nigeria, Senegal, Mauritania, Cape Verde, Benin and Guinea are some of the countries involved in the drug trade. And Guinea-Bissau, says the UN Office for West Africa, is on the verge of becoming “the first African narco-state”.

This is very bad news for the people of West Africa. Because low-level African operatives are paid in kind, and left-over drugs are sold locally, drug addiction is increasing. Drug traffickers are spending large amounts of money to buy immunity and services from corrupt individuals in local governments. In Nigeria, security experts see the drug trade coalescing with the arms trade and worsening an already volatile situation in the Niger delta and disputes over control of the drug trade could threaten stability in Guinea-Bissau.

Many West Africa countries have almost no means to counter the big drug traffickers, says UN INCB Secretary Koli Kouame:

"When states are weak, when institutions are weak and when all of this is doubled by governance issues, obviously it becomes an easy target for drug traffickers because they can easily manipulate, they can easily take over. There is no miracle one can achieve, there are things that can be done, law enforcement needs to be strengthened - that also means the judiciary needs to be strengthened and in some cases that massive assistance needs to be given to these people to do, for example, just an investigation"

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs David Johnson said, “As we have in the past, the United States will provide strong support to those governments that demonstrate real commitment to confronting these very difficult challenges.”