Monday,16 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )
Monday,16 July, 2018
Issue 1237, (12 - 18 March 2015 )

Ahram Weekly

Drug trafficking linked to terror

Africa is increasingly not only a transit point for narcotics trade, but also a destination, with warlords and terrorism the primary beneficiaries, writes Haytham Nuri

Al-Ahram Weekly

If there is one thing that drug traffickers and terrorists like in common, it is a country with a shaky government. And since many African nations seem to be inflicted with recurring instability, the continent has provided a sanctuary for many warlords, many of whom now double as smugglers and insurgents.

East Africa seems to be a favourite destination for drugs arriving from Asia, while West Africa receives most of the production coming from Latin America on its way to its final destination in Europe.

But a recent development has caught the eyes of international narcotics agents. Instead of Africa serving as a mere corridor for narcotics, it is also producing a taste for the poison running through its backdoors.

African consumption of drugs is rising at an alarming rate, according to a recent report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). According to the INCB 2014 report, the “deteriorating political situation in some African sub-regions has spurred increases in illicit drug trafficking, thereby worsening public health problems related to drug use.”

West Africa has seen an increase in both the manufacturing and trafficking of methamphetamine, the report says.

A rise in drug trafficking into and out of Liberia has led to “increased concerns relating to national security there,” the report warns.

The report authors assert that Africa remains a major trafficking corridor for heroine produced from Afghan and Pakistani opium. West Africa continues to receive substantial amounts of cocaine from Latin America.

Morocco remains a top producer worldwide of cannabis resin used in manufacturing hashish, although production dipped somewhat over the past three years.

“The well-developed transportation infrastructure in Southern Africa facilitated the shipment of cocaine and heroin in 2013, as evidenced by large seizures of heroin in South Africa,” the INCB says.

Over the past few years, major drug consignments were seized in various parts of Africa. Substantial seizures were reported in several North African countries, including Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

Smugglers from South Asia used postal services to mail parcels of heroine to Europe, the report notes.

Concerned about the increase of drug use in Africa, the INCB said, “New trends relating to trafficking in amphetamine-type stimulants indicate a growing domestic market throughout Africa, as well as the smuggling of amphetamine-type stimulants to East and Southeast Asia and Oceania.”

Recent seizures in South Africa, the reports notes, “point to an increase in the manufacture of methamphetamine, along with the emergence of small-scale manufacture of methcathinone.”

“The clandestine manufacture of methaqualone in the region has continued, as indicated by large-scale seizures of relevant precursors in both Mozambique and South Africa,” the report says.

According to the report, sea shipments are the favourite method of smuggling heroine in and out of the continent. The smugglers are using new ports that weren’t previously part of the usual routes, such as Durban in South Africa.

“North Africa continues to be the sub-region with the largest amounts of seizures of cannabis resin, and … the amounts have continued to increase. The largest seizures in the sub-region were reported by Algeria, rising from 53 tons in 2011 to over 211 tons in 2013.”

In 2013, the report says, Egyptian authorities seized over 84 tons of cannabis resin, 80 tons of which had been trafficked from Morocco on fishing boats.

One reason for the spread of the trade is corruption, the authors of the INCB report note. Army and police personnel in Liberia, for example, were implicated in the heroine trade, which helped turn the country into a sanctuary for smugglers.

Ahmed Kamal Al-Din, of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), says that Egyptian authorities have for years been searching arrivals from certain countries known to engage in narcotics trade. But the searches have been widened to include more nations.

“Planes coming from Lebanon, Nigeria and Southeast Asian countries are thoroughly searched. In the past, we didn’t search European passengers because they were unlikely to engage in drug crimes, but now the strategy changed, and we search almost everyone,” Kamal Al-Din notes.

The connection between drug money and criminal activities, including terror, is unmistakable, the report says.

UNDOC regional representative Masood Karimipour told Al-Ahram Weekly that the Taliban forces Afghan farmers to continue to plant opium in order to finance their operations against the Pakistani and Afghan governments.

This same phenomenon, Karimipour says, was noted in West Africa, where a major Mali-based drug lord, Iyad Ag Ghaly, doubles as a terrorist. Drug dealing, money laundering and terror activities are closely linked in North Africa and the Sahel, said Karimipour.

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