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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

UN Warns Guinea Bissau Could Become a Narco-Arms Traffic Base

DAKAR (AFP) — Guinea Bissau, a key transit point for international drug traffickers, could pose the greatest threat to stability in west Africa unless the international community steps in to quickly crackdown on the cartels setting up base there, a UN expert warned on Tuesday.

Amado Philip de Andres, deputy representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in west Africa, told reporters on the sidelines of a regional anti-terrorism workshop that cash-strapped and poorly policed Guinea urgently needed help to safeguard regional peace.

"Guinea Bissau is going to explode unless we do something now. It is not a problem of Guinea Bissau, it's a problem of Europe and Latin America," he said.

Andres said international traffickers are exploiting Guinea Bissau's weak self-defence capabilities to ship their contraband from Latin American countries via the nation's Bijagos islands to Europe.

If unchecked they could soon take control of the archipelago and set up a stockpiling and distribution centre before they sponsor civil conflicts in the region in a bid to create chaos to enable them to easily push their illicit trade, he warned.

Guinea "can explode in any direction, civil war, regional destabilisation and it can trigger a domino effect against post-conflict countries which are recovering like Liberia and Sierra Leone," he warned.

"If they create conflict in different parts of the countries and fund activities there then they can move freely because there will be no control," he added.
"I am extremely worried," because the cartels "have the potential to destabilise some post-conflict countries, through specific states which do not have the means to fight terrorism," he said.

He said the desperately impoverished country needs 15 million dollars to beef up its security and fight trafficking through its territory. Donors have been approved but it is yet to be freed.

Plans are that there be a permament international law enforcement force working with the locals and help build vital communications systems.

He said the lack of communications facilities are so desperate that even the justice cabinet minister has to go to a public cyber cafe to recharge her mobile phone because government offices lack electricity.

He insisted the country needs help now because "it will cost more if it explodes, to have peace keeping force" there.

The small former Portuguese colony in west Africa and the world's fifth poorest nation has in recent years become a transit hub for European-bound cocaine originating from Latin America.

Its Prime Minister Martinho Ndafa Cabi has also admitted that his country cannot tackle the drug trafficking problem alone.

Human rights activists have, however, denounced alleged military and government complicity in drug trafficking in the country.

Andres said West African has become such a critical point of departure for drugs that of all the drugs seized at European airports last year, 21 percent came from Africa and of that more than 90 percent landed in through west Africa.

Experts from the UN and 23 central and western African countries are holding a three-day workshop here to thrash out ways to counter terrorism in the region.

The Rest @ Goolge News

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