Drugs fuel conflict in the Sahel


Sahel regional map

from ISSOUF TRAORE in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso Bureau
OUAGADOUGOU, (CAJ News) – THE United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has bemoaned the prevalence of drug trafficking in the Sahel region.

The scourge continues to hinder security, economic development and the rule of law while jeopardizing public health.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger are the worst afflicted.

Cannabis resin remains the internationally trafficked drug most commonly seized in the Sahel countries, followed by cocaine and pharmaceutical opioids.

Seizures of cocaine skyrocketed in the Sahel in 2022 from an average of 13 kg per year seized between 2015-2020 to 1 466 kg in 2022.

Although annual estimates were not available for 2023, some 2,3 tons of cocaine had already been seized in Mauritania by June 2023.

The region’s geographical location makes it a natural stopover point for the increasing amount of cocaine produced in South America en-route to Europe, which has seen a similar rise in demand for the drug.

“Drug trafficking is well-established in the Sahel region – with detrimental consequences both locally and globally,” said Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC representative in West and Central Africa.

The official said the involvement of various armed groups in drug trafficking continued to undermine peace and stability in the region.

A UNODC report finds that drug trafficking continues to provide financial resources to armed groups in the region, enabling them to sustain their involvement in conflict, notably through the purchase of weapons.

Corruption and money laundering are major enablers of drug trafficking, according to the report.

Leonardo Santos Simão, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, said states in the Sahel– along with the international community – must take urgent, coordinated and comprehensive action to dismantle drug trafficking networks.

“The United Nations hopes that this report will serve as a wake-up call,” Simão added.

– CAJ News

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