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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Guinea -Bissau gets Policer Equipment Upgrade from UN

BISSAU, June 19 (Reuters) -By Alberto Dabo The United Nations and European Union are to help set up an elite police anti-narcotics unit in Guinea-Bissau to combat trafficking by Colombian cocaine cartels, a U.N. official said on Thursday.

Police in the small West African country, one of the world's poorest states, have been fighting an unequal battle against powerful drug-smuggling gangs who have been using the former Portuguese colony as a transit hub to ship cocaine to Europe.

While the cartels have deployed planes, boats and off-road vehicles to carry the drugs across Guinea-Bissau, the country's judicial police have often lacked cars, petrol, computers and even handcuffs with which to investigate and pursue them.

Antonio Mazzitelli, West Africa representative for the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said the European Union was providing $2 million euros ($3 million) to finance setting up the anti-drugs unit within Guinea-Bissau's judicial police.

"The programme will provide for strengthening the operational capability with equipment, as well as training," Mazzitelli told Reuters in Bissau, where the agreement was signed on Wednesday with Guinea-Bissau's judicial police.

The UNODC plan would provide the police with basic equipment like vehicles, communications gear, fuel, bullet-proof vests and even generators to allow vital police work to continue in a country where power blackouts are frequent.

The funds would also cover training and the modernisation of offices for the judicial police, who had been working out of a ramshackle building in downtown Bissau.

This would include the creation of a secure temporary detention centre for suspects. Several suspected Colombian drug traffickers arrested by Guinea-Bissau police over the last two years have walked free, released by compliant local magistrates.

UNODC experts say administrative and judicial corruption is a problem in Guinea-Bissau and they are also working on an system of incentives for the judicial police to prevent graft.
In April, Judicial Police Director Lucinda Ahukharie threatened to quit after rival policemen shot dead one of her counternarcotics officers in a revenge killing.

Mazzitelli said the 2 million euros from the EU was part of around $5 million dollars of international funding the UNODC had managed to secure to strengthen Guinea-Bissau's fight against the drug-traffickers.

The Rest @ Alertnent

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