— Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has launched a commission to tackle drug trafficking in West Africa, which has increased significantly in the past decade. The 10-member commission met for the first time in the capital of Ghana Thursday.
Kofi Annan launched the Commission on the Impact of Drug Trafficking on Governance, Security, and Development in West Africa
on Thursday. He said the region is increasingly becoming a transit point for drugs from the Americas and Asia that are headed to Europe, and that the illegal activity threatens to destabilize the region. Local consumption of these drugs is also on the rise.
"We have seen what has happened in other parts of the world where it has destabilized societies, corrupted the system and brought incredible violence," he said. "And of course we don’t want to see that happen here and the idea is for us to look at the issue critically, get the evidence and make recommendations for action."
Drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin are shipped through West Africa on their way to Europe, he said. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report last year that cocaine trafficking in West and Central Africa generates some $900 million annually.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is chairman of the 10-member commission. He said drug traffickers who work with criminal gangs and terrorist organizations are taking advantage of political instability and weak institutions in the region.
"One, the institutions are weak. Two, the people are poor, and three, the pressure is heavy…. Mali is a typical example. Guinea-Bissau is another example where institutions of government are weak and the barons, the drug barons, take advantage," he said.
Annan said the commission will not act as a police force, but will raise awareness, promote local and regional capacity to fight the problem, and submit policy recommendations to regional leaders.