West Africa should decriminalize drugs - Obasanjo commission

By ZenobiaSky · Jun 12, 2014 · ·
  1. ZenobiaSky
    View attachment 39118 Low-level drug offences should be decriminalized in West Africa, according to a high-level report.

    The West Africa Commission on Drugs says drug cartels are undermining the region by using it to transit cocaine.

    The commission, headed by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, says the cartels should be tackled but that punishing the personal use of drugs does not work.

    It argues that current policies incite corruption and provoke violence.

    Drug trafficking and consumption have become major issues in West Africa since the turn of the century.

    Efforts around this time to stem the flow of cocaine from the producing countries of Latin America to consumers in the US and Europe led criminals to target West Africa as a new route.
    The new report, commissioned by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, estimates that the annual trade in cocaine alone through West Africa is now worth $1.25bn (£744m) - more than the total of foreign direct investment in the region.

    Although drug trafficking and consumption are not new to the region - cannabis smoking there, for example, has traditionally been more widespread than in most parts of the world - the advent of harder drugs like cocaine and amphetamines is.

    Pre-trial detention delays

    Most West African countries have tough laws criminalizing all aspects of drug use.
    In some cases, prison sentences of 10 to 15 years are given for possession of drugs for personal use.

    But in countries where court proceedings are slow, the commission's report says, people end up spending long periods in pre-trial detention and are sometimes only released after paying a bribe.

    This, the report says, encourages corruption and does the prisoners more harm than good.

    In Guinea, drug offences can be punished by a fine or imprisonment.

    This means that the better-off drug traffickers escape by paying up - often corrupting officials in the process - while more vulnerable drug users who cannot afford fines face appalling conditions in jail.

    Mr Obasanjo and his colleagues argue that drug use should be regarded primarily as a public health issue.

    "Drug users need help, not punishment," the report says.

    "We abhor the traffickers and their accomplices, who must face the full force of the law.

    "But the law should not be applied disproportionately to the poor, the uneducated and the vulnerable, while the powerful and the well-connected slip through the enforcement net."

    One of the consequences of the widespread criminalization of drug use is a bloated prison population, with inmates who are rarely reformed and in many cases end up more criminalized or sick as a result of their time incarcerated.

    The report says its recommendations on decriminalization were partly inspired by the work of the Organization of American States which last year floated the idea of reducing sentences, particularly for use of cannabis.

    In the last decade countries as diverse as Armenia, Mexico and Switzerland have adopted some form of decriminalization, the commission points out.

    "West Africa would remove a huge weight from an already overburdened criminal justice system if it were to decriminalize drug use and possession, expand health and social services for those with problematic use, and expend greater efforts on pursuing traffickers," the report concludes.

    As well as Mr Obasanjo, contributors include Senegalese psychiatrist, Idrissa Ba, retired Sierra Leonean judge Justice Bankole-Thompson and Malian singer Oumou Sangare.

    By Mark Doyle
    BBC international development correspondent
    11 June 2014 Last updated at 21:20 ET

    The Newhawks Crew

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  1. Alfa
    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The international pressure from the DEA on foreign governments to intensify the drug war is in conflict with reports like this and the efforts by respected leaders like Kofi Annan.
    If west Africa decriminalizes then this would have a strong effect on the region and even on Europe. Especially since several countries in the Americas are also decriminalizing.

    Europe is moving in various directions, with some countries becoming more liberal while others become far more restrictive. If more regions around the world start to decriminalize then this can have a domino effect and also influence the array of decriminalization.
  2. ZenobiaSky
    Annan Joins Obasanjo to Urge West Africa to Decriminalize Drugs

    Annan Joins Obasanjo to Urge West Africa to Decriminalize Drugs​

    [IMGL=WHITE]https://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=39199&stc=1&d=1403069127[/IMGL] West African governments should decriminalize low-level drug offenses, former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and ex-Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said.

    Treating drug use as a crime has led to social and health problems in the region, the West Africa Commission on Drugs, convened by Annan, said in a report released today in Dakar, Senegal’s capital.

    Porous borders, weak security forces and pervasive corruption have made West Africa a target for traffickers smuggling cocaine to Europe. The value of the cocaine trade through the region, estimated at an annual $1.25 billion, is higher than the combined budget of several states, the commission said.

    “West Africa must not become a new front line in the failed ‘war on drugs,’ which has neither reduced drug consumption nor put traffickers out of business,” it said. “We believe that the consumption and possession for personal use of drugs should not be criminalized.”

    Many nations on West Africa’s Atlantic coast are seeing increasing drug use in what used to be almost exclusively a transit zone for narcotics smuggled from South America to Europe, it said.

    “We call on West African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalize low-level and non-violent drug offenses,” Obasanjo, who governed Nigeria in the late 1970s as a military ruler and from 1999 to 2007 as an elected president, said in a statement released with the report.

    By Daniel Magnowski
    June 12, 2014
    Bloomberg Business Week

    The Newhawks Crew

  3. RoboCodeine7610
    West African experts call for drugs decriminalisation

    Dakar (AFP) - A panel of experts called Thursday for minor drugs offences to be decriminalised in west Africa, where trafficking, consumption and production is undermining development and causing a public health crisis.

    The West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) said current policies were fuelling corruption in a region where the cocaine trade alone, estimated at $1.25 billion (920 million euros) a year, dwarfs the combined budgets of several countries.

    "We call on west African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalise low-level and non-violent drug offences," commission chairman Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, told reporters in Dakar.

    "West Africa is no longer just a transit zone for drugs arriving from South America and ending up in Europe but has become a significant zone of consumption and production.

    "The glaring absence of treatment facilities for drug users fuels the spread of disease and exposes an entire generation, users and non-users alike, to growing public health risks."

    The commission highlighted the drug-fuelled instability in Guinea-Bissau, a country of just 1.5 million people which has been wracked by conflict between the army and state since independence from Portugal in 1974.

    View galleryFormer president Olusegun Obasanjo(R) speaks next to …
    Former president Olusegun Obasanjo(R) speaks next to Kofi Annan (C) and former president of Cape Ver …
    Drug traffickers have turned the country, sandwiched between Senegal and Guinea, into a transit point for the international cocaine trade.

    The WADC also pointed the finger at Mali, seen for years as a weak link in the fight against drugs and the scene of the spectacular "drug-plane" affair in November 2009, when a Boeing 727 carrying cocaine from Venezuela landed in the remote northeastern region of Gao.

    Coming in on a makeshift runway, it unloaded its cargo and was then destroyed and left as a burnt-out wreck in the desert.

    - Failed war on drugs -

    The WACD released a report, commissioned by former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on Thursday arguing that the widespread criminalisation of drug use was bloating the prison population.

    View galleryPolice guard a truck with a seized cocaine haul in …
    Police guard a truck with a seized cocaine haul in Rufisquem, near Dakar on August 2, 2007 (AFP Phot …
    Inmates are rarely reformed and in many cases end up more criminalised or sick as a result of their time inside, says the report, entitled "Not Just in Transit - Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa".

    The study is the culmination of 18 months of research and consultations with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and several regional and national organisations.

    It describes the political, social and economic challenges that the region must confront to prevent drug trafficking, production and consumption from undermining states and societies, and destroying lives.

    "Most governments' reaction to simply criminalise drug use without thinking about prevention or access to treatment has not just led to overcrowded jails, but also worsened health and social problems," Annan said.

    Contributors to the report include Senegalese psychiatrist Idrissa Ba, retired Sierra Leonean judge Justice Bankole-Thompson and Pedro Pires, a former president of Cape Verde.

    They make a raft of recommendations for states to adopt a joined-up policy for battling drug abuse which includes treating it as a public health issue rather than as a criminal justice matter.

    Their report urges west African states to tackle corruption within governments, the security services and the judiciary that drugs cartels have been able to exploit.

    It also calls for governments to avoid "militarisation of drug policy" which it says has been ineffective in Latin America.

    "We caution that west Africa must not become a new front line in the failed 'war on drugs', which has neither reduced drug consumption nor put traffickers out of business," the report said.

    By Malick Rokhy Ba
    June 12, 2014

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