West African Sahel Region Becoming an Influential Route for Drug Trafficking: UN

Sat Apr 20 2024
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UNITED STATES: Drug seizures in West Africa’s Sahel region are on the rise, according to a new United Nations report, suggesting the conflict zone is becoming a powerful route for drug trafficking.

According to a report published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on Friday, the amount of cocaine seized in Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger in 2022 was 1,466 kilograms (3,232 pounds), compared to an average of 13 kilograms (28.7 pounds) between 2013 and 2020.

The Sahel region, located south of the Sahara Desert and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, is a natural transit point for increasing quantities of cocaine produced in South America and destined for Europe.

Amado Philip de Andres, UNODC regional representative in West and Central Africa, said human trafficking has a negative impact on peace and health both in the region and globally.

“The involvement of various armed groups in drug trafficking continues to undermine peace and stability in the region,” said Philip de Andres.

The report warned that the drug trade provides financial resources to armed groups in the Sahel, where extremist networks have flourished as the region struggles with a recent spate of coups.

“Drug trafficking is facilitated by a wide range of individuals, which can include members of the political elite, community leaders, and leaders of armed groups,” the UNODC said, adding that this enables armed groups to “sustain their involvement in conflict, notably through the purchase of weapons”.

“Traffickers have used their income to penetrate different layers of the state, allowing them to effectively avoid prosecution,” the UNODC added.

In recent years, this area has been considered as a drug consuming area.

On Monday, patrols in southwestern Niger intercepted a shipment of hashish and the pain reliever Tramadol worth $50,000, Niger state television said.

With recent seizures and arrests encouraging political elites, community leaders, and leaders of armed groups, the UN report says drug trafficking, corruption and money laundering are key drivers.

Director of the Observatory of Illicit Economies in West Africa at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, Lucia Bird, said that corruption is the grease that keeps the wheels of any criminal market moving.

“The Sahel is also gripped with instability and there are areas the government is struggling to control. And this instability also creates opportunities for criminal markets and drug trafficking,” she noted.



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