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The Two West African Narco States

September 10, 2010

We are all living dangerously in a 'drugged' world, one in which oddities and the bizzare take center stage trying ominously to upstage normality and morality. The international drug cartel represents an illicit global business that spins billions of dollars annually from Colombia to Mexico, Jamaica to Pakistan, Nigeria to South Africa.

We are all living dangerously in a 'drugged' world, one in which oddities and the bizzare take center stage trying ominously to upstage normality and morality. The international drug cartel represents an illicit global business that spins billions of dollars annually from Colombia to Mexico, Jamaica to Pakistan, Nigeria to South Africa.

In the natural law of demand and supply the chain is constantly in need one way or the other. So the drug trade is becoming more and more lucrative to engage in but more and more complicated to combat as profits soared and new victims made around the world.
It is a classical case of a global community on 'drugs'. Today we have heard stories of drug barons forming their own militias to battle the authorities in their trail. It is a deadly business in which the lords maintain a ruthless hold and recruit people using cheap money as bait and reward. In a world with majority of poverty-stricken fellows it is easy to find those ready to do anything to break out of the poverty chain. Many young Nigerians had been hanged in Libya, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and other countries for drug-related offenses. Yet the capital punishment meted out to these unfortunate compatriots have largely failed to deter boys and girls, men and women from taking the risk of doing drugs.
In the Jamaican capital city, Kingston, few weeks back, the world was treated to a gun battle between supporters of a wanted drug lord, Christopher Dudus Coke and the Jamaican police. Innocent people, caught in the crossfire, were killed without the police apprehending Coke. Today he is still at large! His surname strikes one as cocaine is called 'coke' much as nuclear weapons is abbreviated 'nukes'. Mr Coke was wanted dead or alive by the Jamaican government for extradition to the United States to answer to charges of drug trafficking and other related offenses. But the police failed, despite their superior fire power, to smoke out Coke as his whereabouts remain woven in uncertainty just as the present abode of the American public enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden, is still shrouded in mystery.
In Mexico City it was recently alleged with serious demoralising implications for the war on drugs that many of the law enforcement agents are on the pay-roll of drug barons who get classified informations that help them prosper in the illicit business and decode any government plan to crack down on them. When the mafians into the drug deals get involved in the system of governance in any country then that particular administration will have their hands full of surprises.
In Nigeria weekly we hear stories of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) arresting people at the international airports attempting to smuggle huge quantities of cocaine out of the country. Few weeks back Nigerians were shocked when news filtered out that a cargo lying in a Lagos Port was intercepted and discovered to be filled with imported hard drugs. Accussing fingers were pointed at some members of the Enugu State House of Assembly as owners of the drug cargo. We are still waiting for a follow-up as investigation got underway to find out the importers of the offensive drug whose worth and street value was put at billions of naira.
Nigeria is a haven for drug barons and drug purveyors and some are still making it big despite courageous modest efforts by the NDLEA to nip the trade in the bud. The opium business around the globe has no gender difference; men and women are involved in the trafficking runs. It has no age difference as teenagers had been siezed trying to peddle drugs from one country to another. It has no race distinction nor religion. It is fuelled more by the greed of man for economic power or independence and less for addictive consumption hooked on something that temporarily puts one on the 'high' side.
The narcotics world therefore cannot be subdued and its effects can never be obliterated from the face of the planet. We live in a giddy world that discovers new things daily and new frontiers for self actualisation and individual satisfaction of the awkward stupifying stretch.
There are two West African States that have at least three things in common: poverty, similar country names and drug-related notoriety. The countries in question are Guinea Conakry and Guinea Bissau. Whereas Guinea Conakry is French-speaking Guinea Bissau has Portuguese as national lingua franca. While the latter has Bissau as capital city the former's capital city is Conakry. The two countries share poverty as a national identity! And they are havens for international narcotics trade.
Guinea Bissau particularly has had a very turbulent political history with military coups and counter coups leading to assassinations of prominent individuals. It has a massive foreign debt and an economy which relies heavily on foreign aid. Guinea-Bissau won independence from Portugal in 1974 after a long struggle spearheaded by the left-wing African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). It has had a turbulent bloody political history in which leaders had been violently assassinated. Since her independence from Portugal in 1974 there has been an unpredictable unstable political environment where coup plotting and rebellion held sway.
From the late General Ansumane Mane, a former lanky Army Commander who overthrew the late ex-President Joao Bernado Vieira in 1999 it had been one army mutiny or the other. Late Vieira himself was a former Army Chief who toppled the first President the late Luis Cabral. Mr Vieira who returned home after many years in exile in Portugal won the 2005 presidential elections. The late President (popularly known as Nino) was killed by renegade soldiers in March 2009 in an apparent well-planned revenge attack. He was having a running leadership tussle with his Army Chief General Tagme Na Waie and a bomb attack killed the army chief of staff in bloody circumstances. Vieira was accused to have masterminded the tragic assault as General Ibrahim Babangida is still being accused of eliminating via parcel bomb the intrepid journalist Dele Giwa in 1986.
But hours after that horrific incident a detachment of soldiers loyal to the murdered army commander launched a desperate attack on Vieira which led to his death. Reports had it then that his body was butchered in his aged mother's home where he ran for cover! Today Malam Bacai Sanha is the elected President and he has as Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior who in a political crisis in April this year was briefly detained by some mutinous soldiers. Led by the second-in-command they replaced the armed forces chief accusing him of corruption and high-handedness. They threatened to kill the Prime Minister if anybody protested his abduction! There is a relative peace now in the country even though the political instability of the past has made the country a trans-shipment point for Latin American drugs.
Apart from the problem of drugs people-traffickers use Guinea Bissau's remote coastline to smuggle migrants, including Asians, to Europe. At a point the US government named two top military officials as international drugs traffickers freezing their US assets. With the new government in place it is hoped that the issue of drugs and the latin American trans-national peddlers would be discouraged to continue business as usual.
Guinea Conakry is equally unlucky when it comes to good leadership and responsive government. After her independence from France in 1958 the late autocratic leader Sekou Toure cut off all French links preferring the defunct Soviet Union instead. Toure used repression to put down any dissent mismanaging the economy in the process. His death in 1984 ushered in another military dictator the late Lansana Conte who later transmuted to a civilian President.
The poor country but rich in mineral resources endured many decades of brutal dictatorship (military and civilian) under the late Lansana Conte. And when he died (out of a secretely-guarded presidential infirmity that confined him to a wheelchair before his demise) the military led by a young abrasive captain Moussa Dadis Camara siezed power effortlessly in December 2008. The erratic army man who confessed having sold kolanuts for a living in the past took leadership to an all-time low with his bizzare way and methods.
But he was popular when he came in. In the first few months of his administration, Capt Camara sought to further boost his popularity through a very popular crackdown on the Guinean drug-trafficking industry. The high point of this patriotic move was when he arrested and paraded live on state television the son of the deceased President Lansana Conte, Ousmane, accused of being a drug-trafficking kingpin and his ring of traffickers quizzing them and making some political capital out of a serious issue trivialised. The late President's son confessed his involvement in the narcotics business and Capt Camara's outlandish approach was applauded by the pauperized Guineans tasty for true democracy.
Captain Camara was shot and wounded in the neck area by his ADC who was angry that he was bearing the whole blame for the stampede and killings in the stadium in the capital where opposition protesters were brutally suppresed and killed in their hundreds. Camara was hospitalised in Morroco for some months and his deputy, General Sekouba Konate took charge. The assassination attempt on Camara saved Guineans from his plans to drop his military uniform and contest the presidential polls a la Lansana Conte.
The first round of presidential elections were held in June 2010. A second round has been scheduled for 19 September and campaign is in high gear. Ex-prime minister Cellou Dalein Diallo will face the veteran politician Alpha Conde. Diallo came first in the first round of ballotting while Conde scored a distant second prompting the run-off. The veteran opposition leader Conde and his supporters are claiming that Diallo represents the interests of forces that have conspired to deny the country of steady progress and development.
Whoever wins after the re-run of next week Sunday will have his hands full of responsibilities and high expectations of Guineans. The most urgent happens to be the reform of the military and the establishment of deterrent measures that will put cocaine dealers out of business.
SOC Okenwa
[email protected]

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