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

    Russia Sees Brexit Impact Widespread but Temporary

    Officials, citizens react to Britain’s vote to exit European Union with mix of pleasure, understanding and concern

    Obama Encourages Entrepreneurs to Seek Global Interconnection

    President tells entrepreneurs at global summit at Stanford University to find mentors, push ahead with new ideas on day after Britain voters decide to exit EU

    Video Some US Gun Owners Support Gun Control

    Defying the stereotype, Dave Makings says he'd give up his assault rifle for a comprehensive program to reduce gun violence

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Unchartered Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora