A senior U.N. official says heavy trafficking of narcotics through West
Africa into Europe is threatening the lives, livelihoods and stability
of the region. The official says the problem of drug trafficking is
competing with humanitarian and developmental issues in west African
countries suffering from heavy flooding. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA
The U.N. Organization Against Drugs and Crimes
reports there has been a large increase in the trafficking of narcotics
by Latin American drug cartels across the West African region.
says up to 27 percent of the cocaine used in Europe and the Gulf
transits through West African countries. This illegal trade brings in
about $1.8 billion a year.
Herve Ludovic de Lys is head of the
Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance regional
office for west Africa. He says drug trafficking in itself is not a
threat to the humanitarian community, but it could develop into a major
"This is of concern to us because west
Africa is just emerging from a period when we had very violent
conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. And, we as
humanitarians are very concerned because drug trafficking could fuel
conflicts, could bring back weapons and could generate new concerns,"
De Lys notes protracted low-intensity conflicts are
going on in northern Niger and to a lesser extent in northern Mali. He
says fundamentalist Islamic groups allegedly are present in Mauritania
and stirring up trouble. He says Ivory Coast is stable, but could
easily relapse into conflict.
He says there is also the
nagging issue of Guinea Conakry, which has been unstable since last
year. He says anything could upset the fragile situations in these
"You remember the Sierra Leone and Liberia? The
conflicts were fueled by diamond trafficking. Our concern as
humanitarians is that conflicts could now be fueled by other forms of
illegal commodities and narcotics are obviously very profitable and
very easy things to move around the region," he said.
says there is some evidence that drug addiction in west Africa is
growing. He says it often happens that people who ship narcotics
become users themselves.
He says criminal organizations have a
lot of money to throw around. He warns many people in west African
countries are likely to be tempted to engage in narcotics trafficking
if the international community fails to support critical emergency
needs and developmental programs.