News / Africa

Commission: West Africa Should Change Drug Policies

FILE - Police officers uproot poppy plants discovered on a farm in Njabini Kinangop, about 100 kilometers west of Nairobi, Kenya.
FILE - Police officers uproot poppy plants discovered on a farm in Njabini Kinangop, about 100 kilometers west of Nairobi, Kenya.
Anne Look
The West Africa Commission on Drugs says the region needs a new approach to tackling drug-related crime. The commission, which released its findings Thursday in Dakar after nearly two years of research, says countries should not criminalize drug use or militarize their approach to traffickers.

Over the past decade, West African countries have made headlines seizing tons of narcotics at their coastlines and airports. Thousands of arrests have been made.

While it looks impressive on paper, it's not enough. Most of those going to prison are addicts or small-time dealers, couriers and middlemen. The trafficking and use of drugs like cocaine and heroin continue to climb. Labs producing amphetamine-type stimulants, like meth, have cropped up in the region.  

In addition, drug money can buy elections and destabilize governments. Organized crime and extremist groups are getting in on the action.

Changing policies

Those are among the findings of the West Africa Commission on Drugs created by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, a native of Ghana.

"Current drug policies are not working. We must now have the courage to change policies that no longer fit the reality," he said.

Nigeria's Drug Law Enforcement Agency says between 1990 and 2013 it seized 178 tons of cocaine. It sounds impressive, but ex-Nigerian president Olesgun Obasanjo put those numbers in perspective.

"Just one ton of cocaine that reaches Europe via West Africa is worth more than the security budget of many of our countries," he said.

Obasanjo led the commission during its investigation, and said all that trafficking also has meant more drug use in the region.

"Our region is simply not ready or adequately equipped to deal with the spread of drug use and dependency. The response all too often is to stigmatize and penalize drug users," he said. "However, pushing them to the fringes of society or locking them up in ever increasing numbers will not solve the problem."

'Evolved thinking'

The commission says countries should decriminalize taking drugs and the possession of small amounts of them for personal use. It says drug use should be treated as a public health problem, and the focus should be on things like opening treatment centers.

That's a stark contrast to the so-called "prohibitionist" approach that has characterized the now decades-long "war on drugs" in the Americas. Some experts say that war has failed. The violence only intensified, and drugs did not become less available.

The commission says West Africa has a chance to avoid those mistakes.

Guatemala's foreign affairs minister, Fernando Carrera, said the commission's recommendations for West Africa are in line with evolving thinking in his region.

"The fact is that prohibition has failed. Regulation is the new word," he said. "We need to work on interdiction but in a different way. Interdiction as usual is not enough, is not doing enough. We need to work on public health. We need to work on better social services. We need to work on economic opportunities for the poor."

Both Carrera and Obasanjo say law enforcement should go after high-level targets, the so-called "big fish."  That takes political will and specialized, coordinated units dealing with narcotics, money laundering and corruption.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid