ACCRA (Reuters) - West Africa must openly confront its political and governance weaknesses to curb the growing drug trade in the region, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Wednesday.
“West Africa is no longer only a transit zone of drugs but an attractive destination where pushers take advantage of the weak political system to perpetuate their trade,” Obasanjo, who chairs the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD), said while presenting his report to Ghana’s President John Mahama.
“We believe that we should confront openly the political and governance weaknesses which the traffickers exploit,” Obasanjo said.
Former United Nations chief Kofi Annan set up the commission last year to explore ways to stem the increasing trafficking of drugs and its use in the region.
West Africa has long produced and consumed cannabis but its collection of weak states has over the last decade become a major transit zone for Latin American cocaine destined for Europe. Heroin from Asia is also passing through the region.
Drugs are undermining the stability of West African countries and their development, “eating not only into the normal life of our youth, but it’s eating into our political system and governance,” Obasanjo said.
In its report released in June, the commission called on governments in West Africa to decriminalize drug use and treat the issue as a health problem.
Obasanjo said because of the amount of money involved,
“drug barons can buy, they can do, and they can undo - buy officials in the military, security and pervert justice.”
Annan said wrong-headed governmental policies by leaders and influential people in society have destroyed many more lives in West Africa than drug use.
WACD has 11 members including former President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde and former Togolese Prime Minister Edem Kojo.
Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Cynthia Osterman