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West African Government Ministers Study Drug Trafficking Threat

West African ministers meeting in Cape Verde are pledging greater efforts to combat international drug trafficking and organized crime in their region. VOA's Scott Bobb reports from our West Africa Bureau in Dakar the United Nations says West Africa is in danger of becoming an epicenter for the illegal trade.

Ministers from the West African community ECOWAS say drug trafficking has become a threat to security in the region. They say they are drawing up a plan of action to combat the illegal trade and the economic and social distortions that accompany it.

A new U.N. report says cocaine seizures in West Africa have risen five-fold in the past three years, reaching more than six tons last year. It estimates that 50 tons of cocaine worth $2 billion annually are transiting the region.

The head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, told VOA that traffickers are moving into West Africa because drug seizures have increased along the more direct routes from South America to Europe.

"The trafficking is motivated by the administrative weaknesses of the border controls in the countries of West Africa and the intrinsic weaknesses of the judicial systems," she said.

He says the illegal trade corrupts senior officials, distorts local economies, and poisons young people through addiction and criminality.

Costa says to combat the scourge donor nations and agencies can bring to the battle what he calls the hardware, funding and expertise.

"We need West African countries to generate their own software," she said. "By software I mean the integrity which is needed, the political will that is needed, the commitment that is needed to do something about this tragedy."

He hopes a political declaration and plan of action by West African ministers will bring stricter laws against trafficking and create specialized bodies to enforce them.

Their declaration is to be submitted to West African leaders at the ECOWAS summit in December at Abuja.