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UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa’s Sahel region

UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa's Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa's Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com
UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa's Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com

The United Nations (UN) has issued a warning about the escalating drug trafficking activities in the Sahel region of West Africa. Recent data shows a significant increase in drug seizures, particularly of cocaine, in countries such as Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

This surge in illicit drug trade is a cause for concern as it has the potential to exacerbate existing conflicts and pose serious risks to public health.

According to a report released by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the amount of cocaine seized in the Sahel region in 2022 was more than a hundred times higher than the average seizures recorded between 2013 and 2020. Cocaine, along with cannabis resin, is one of the most commonly trafficked drugs in the region.

UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa's Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com
UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa’s Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com

The strategic location of the Sahel, which lies at the crossroads of major drug trafficking routes from South America to Europe, makes it an attractive transit point for drug smugglers.

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The proliferation of drug trafficking in the Sahel has far-reaching consequences, both locally and globally. Amado Philip de Andres, the UNODC regional representative in West and Central Africa, pointed out that the involvement of various armed groups in drug trafficking is a major obstacle to peace and stability in the region.

These armed groups often rely on the illicit drug trade to finance their activities, leading to further instability and violence in the region.

Moreover, drug trafficking poses serious health risks to the population, as it fuels substance abuse and addiction. The influx of drugs not only contributes to the deterioration of public health but also undermines efforts to combat drug abuse and related crimes.

Drug trafficking is a complex issue that involves a variety of individuals, including members of the political elite, community leaders, and leaders of armed groups, according to the UNODC.

This widespread involvement makes it easier for armed groups to sustain their involvement in conflicts by purchasing weapons with the profits from drug trafficking.

Furthermore, the UNODC points out that traffickers use their immense wealth to infiltrate different levels of the state, making it difficult for authorities to prosecute them effectively.

This insidious cycle of drug trafficking perpetuates violence and instability in many regions, highlighting the urgent need for international cooperation and stringent law enforcement measures to combat this global problem.

The UNODC report underscored the urgent need for coordinated international efforts to address the growing drug trafficking problem in the Sahel region.

In addition to its direct impact on peace and health, drug trafficking in the Sahel region has also provided a source of funding for extremist networks and armed groups. As the region grapples with political instability and a series of coups, the presence of drug trafficking networks further complicates efforts to restore peace and order. The UNODC report highlighted the role of drug trafficking in financing armed groups and facilitating their operations, posing a serious threat to the security of the region.

‘Urgent coordination needed’

UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa's Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com
UN warns of rising drug trafficking in West Africa’s Sahel region www.whoownsafrica.com

The Sahel region has long been plagued by drug trafficking, with recent interceptions revealing the extent of the issue. A patrol in southwest Niger recently seized a shipment of cannabis and Tramadol worth $50,000, highlighting the lucrative nature of the trade.

However, it is not just criminal organizations driving this illegal activity, as corruption and money laundering at all levels of society are major enablers of drug trafficking.

The UN has called for urgent, coordinated action to dismantle drug trafficking networks in the Sahel, emphasizing the need for states and the international community to work together to address this growing problem.

Leonardo Santos Simao, the special representative of the UN secretary-general for West Africa, emphasized the importance of comprehensive action to combat this issue.

Lucia Bird, the director of the Observatory of Illicit Economies in West Africa, highlighted the role of corruption in facilitating the drug trade, noting that it is essential to address both the supply and demand sides of the market.

The region’s instability further complicates efforts to combat drug trafficking, as areas that are difficult for the government to control provide opportunities for criminal organizations to thrive.


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