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UN: Drug Trafficking and Abuse On the Rise in Africa

The United Nations drug agency said drug trafficking and abuse are on the rise in many African countries.

According to the U.N. International Narcotics Control Board, last year was particularly worrying for those concerned about drug production, use, and trafficking in Africa.

"Africa, particularly Morocco, is a major source of cannabis found in illicit market[s] in the region. Trafficking has also increased,” said Carsten Hyttel, regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. “The year 2004 saw several record seizures of cocaine in West Africa - 600 kilograms was seized in Ghana, 450 kilograms off the coast of Togo, and 200 kilograms were seized by the authorities of Cape Verde. Drug abuse is also on the rise. The fact that injecting drug abuse of heroin is increasingly reported in countries in eastern and southern Africa could have serious ramifications for the spreads of HIV/AIDS."

The International Narcotics Control Board Wednesday released its 2004 annual report with the theme of reducing drug supply and demand around the world.

According to the report, 60 percent of the world's seizures of cannabis resin, commonly known as "hashish," comes from Morocco.

In Comoros, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Tanzania, cannabis herb, or marijuana, constitutes what the report calls "a significant commercial crop," with the size of cultivation reportedly increasing in some areas as prices for agricultural products decline.

Meanwhile, the report says cocaine drug traffickers have moved their operations to the west African coast to avoid law enforcement measures in Spain and Portugal.

And heroin continues to enter west and east Africa from Asia, creating regional trafficking hubs. Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa, and Tanzania all report increased heroin use.

Kenya's assistant minister for public health, Mohammed Kuti, said he is worried about the implications of Africa's largest cocaine bust, which took place in Kenya last year when authorities seized more than one metric ton of cocaine.

"According to the latest example of cocaine seizure in December 2004, Kenya is the entry point for illicit drugs into and through East Africa, showing that Kenya is being used as a hub for international drug trafficking,” he said.

Mr. Kuti said that the Kenyan government plans to resurrect the National Drug Control Master Plan, a strategy to control drug abuse in Kenya that was put together in 1999 but never made it to parliament.

Mr. Hyttel urged the Kenyan government to follow through with its plan, saying that African governments generally are unable to deal with the drug problem.

"INCB calls on African governments to give higher priority to addressing the drug problem in their countries, and on the international community to provide appropriate assistance and support to states in the region,” he explained. “African countries have limited institutional and technical capacity to deal with the drug issue in a comprehensive manner, and this has negatively affected the implementation of drug control strategies."

There are three main international drug control treaties to deal with the drug problem.

Angola and Equatorial Guinea are the only African countries that are not yet parties to the three treaties. Several other countries - including Chad, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Namibia, and Somalia - are at some stage of becoming parties to one or more of the conventions.