- According to UN sources, Guinea-Bissau with the help of European security forces is slowly losing importance as a centre for drug trafficking. The drug mafia is not anymore threatening the entire state apparatus.
The UN Security Council today again discussed the situation in Guinea-Bissau, a poor West African nation that only recently risked becoming a failed state. As political stability and economic growth are returning to the country, only drug trafficking and organised crime still threatened prospects in Guinea-Bissau, UN officials concluded.
"Although there seems to be a downward trend in the trafficking of cocaine through West Africa over the past few months, drug trafficking and organised crime remain a significant challenge for stability in Guinea-Bissau and the sub-region," said Joseph Mutaboba, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's representative in Guinea-Bissau.
The good news is however that Guinea-Bissau has reversed the trend of developing into the region's major drug hub. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), there has been a significant drop in drug seizures in West Africa at large over the past 18 months, corroborated by a similarly strong decline in European drug seizures with West Africa as the suspected source.
However, as UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said these efforts may have caused the trafficking routes to move further south, or farther inland. "The threat to Guinea-Bissau – though less obvious than in the past – is still serious," he stated, noting that there had been reports of smuggling through many privately-owned islands of the Bissau archipelago.
The Bissau government needed "greater assistance to gain control over these islands, which provide a safe haven for light aircraft and fast boats," said Mr Costa. He therefore urged the Security Council "not to be complacent."
Mr Costa also highlighted three new "disturbing" trends in the region. The first is that a growing amount of the drugs coming into West Africa are being consumed locally. "This is new, though not surprising" he said, noting that low prices and high supply of cocaine, particularly in Guinea-Bissau, cause havoc among youth who are already affected by other problems.
In addition, there were UN reports of drug use – as well as trafficking – affecting the military. And, since July, UNODC and Interpol had been investigating numerous West African sites where they found large amounts of chemicals used in drug processing. "West Africa is now on the verge of becoming a source of drugs, not only a transit area," said Mr Costa.
"Organised crime is growing indigenous roots" in Guinea-Bissau and West Africa, Mr Costa warned.
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