By Tokunbo Adedoja
United States has said 13 per cent of global cocaine flow moves through West Africa. Ironically, in spite of Africa’s recent impressive economic growth, the continent accounts for less than two per cent of global trade.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, William Brownfield, in his testimony on Wednesday before the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control in Washington, described growing presence of narcotics and narcotics-related criminal networks in West Africa as a significant emerging threat to regional and global security interests.
“Transnational organised crime, including drug trafficking, is a major threat to security and governance throughout West Africa,” Brownfield said, adding, “traffickers are moving drugs, people, small arms, oil, cigarettes, counterfeit medicine, and toxic waste through the region, generating large profits for transnational criminal networks.”
Noting that cocaine trafficking is one of the most lucrative of these illicit activities, he cited United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates which put proceeds from these illicit activities at approximately $3.34 billion a year.
He said while most of the cocaine moving through West Africa lands in Europe, the proceeds flow back to organisations that move cocaine to America, thereby reinforcing their financial strength and motivation to continue exploiting emerging routes for drug sales.
Brownfield said: “Drug trafficking in West Africa directly harms Americans. We are also starting to see drug trafficking in the West African region expand from cocaine to include heroin, which does come to American streets.”
He said another reason drug trafficking in the region deserves particular attention, was its destabilising impact across the region, and the fact that it also undercuts US policy priorities in West Africa such as security, democracy and good governance.
The senior US official said the potential for drugs to contribute to destabilisation in the region was clearly seen in the case of Guinea-Bissau, where most of the country’s leadership had been implicated in drug trafficking.
Brownfield further noted that in the region: “The proceeds of drug trafficking are fuelling a dramatic increase in narco-corruption, including the form of contributions to election campaigns in West Africa. Criminal networks are co-opting government officials and security forces – the very actors responsible for fighting crime.”
“They seriously compromise the effectiveness of anticorruption and institution-building efforts as they permeate political and state administration institutions and build corrupt networks with state officials to facilitate or reduce the risks and costs of their operations.”
He said in some countries, such as Nigeria and Ghana, US assistance would focus on building capacity to detect, disrupt, and dismantle drug trafficking networks, while in post-conflict countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, the next step would be to enhance basic law enforcement.
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