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Friday, December 07, 2007

Last Wake Up Call from Guinea Bissau - Africa's First Narco State

Guinea Bissau is one of the poorest countries in the world, but visit a local nightclub and you soon discover that some people there are making a lot of money.

Top-of-the-range four-wheel drive vehicles can be seen parked outside and whisky seems to be the favoured drink. Each glass costs several times the average daily income of less than $1 a day.

This money is not coming from the country's traditional mainstay, cashew nuts. It is coming from cocaine.

"We can see these people walking in complete freedom; they are parading their wealth," says Jamel Handem, the head of a coalition of civic groups known as Platform GB.

"They're showing it completely openly."

See map of West African cocaine seizures

The geography of the country is crucial, according to university rector and social commentator Fafali Kudawo.

"This is a country that has a mainland, and a group of islands - an archipelago - and the maritime part of the country is bigger than the mainland," he says.
"And the country doesn't have a navy to control all that space. It's an open border for whoever wants to bring drugs into the country."

The near-total absence of the rule of law also makes Guinea Bissau attractive to drugs.

Lucinda Aukarie: Tonnes of cocaine pass through Guinea Bissau each week"Law enforcement has literally no control for two reasons: there is no capacity and there is no equipment," says Amado Philip de Andres, the deputy regional head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). ...
..."The head of the judicial police, Lucinda Aukarie, knows she is confronting a massive problem.
"We not sure exactly how much cocaine is moving through the country, but we think each week there are tonnes," she says......

....."This is now actually the last wake-up call that the international community can receive," he says.

"Please act now, we have to act now. If we don't the situation will explode.
"Drug traffickers know that they can move freely in Bissau, they will do it, they will take control of the region, they will coordinate and we'll all be the losers - meaning the international community and West African countries."

A donor conference to be held in Portugal on 19 December may signal a change of attitude.
If not, Guinea Bissau faces the prospect of becoming a unique type of failed state - a "narco-state" - run mainly for the benefit of drugs gangs.

The Rest @ the BBC

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