Guinea Bissau: A Narco State in Africa | PBS
Frontline's interview with photojournalist Marco Vernaschi, who has recently returned from Guinea Bissau.
21st Century Authoritarianism
4 weeks ago
there is strong scepticism in the military that the reforms would provide sufficient guarantee for retired officers. Unless there are reasonable guarantees that they will have decent living conditions, the military will be reluctant to move forward on the reform proc-ess. A senior officer pointed to “the fear of being in a civilian life without a decent means of living”.57 The massive return to uniform of retired officers during the 1998-1999 conflict was motivated principally by a desire to earn a living. Any changes that do not address this issue are bound to be resisted not only by the military but also by the many who depend on the military for their livelihood.
The $50 billion global cocaine market is undergoing seismic shifts,' said Mr. Costa. 'Purity levels and seizures (in main consumer countries) are down, prices are up, and consumption patterns are in flux. This may help explain the gruesome upsurge of violence in countries like Mexico. In Central America, cartels are fighting for a shrinking market,' he said.
In West Africa, a decline in seizures seems to reflect lower cocaine flows after five years of rapid growth. 'International efforts are paying off,' said Mr. Costa. Yet drug-related violence and political instability continue, especially in Guinea-Bissau. 'As long as demand for drugs persists, weak countries will always be targeted by traffickers. If Europe really wants to help Africa, it should curb its appetite for cocaine,' said the UN's top drug control official.
I see Europe today teetering on the brink of a drug trafficking and abuse catastrophe similar to the one our Nation faced about 30 years ago. If you need a visual on what I predict Europe is facing in the years to come, just picture Miami, Florida in the late 1970s, followed by the ‘crack’ cocaine epidemic that exploded all across our Nation in the 1980s. The bottom line—Latin American and Mexican drug lords currently face far less of a threat distributing their poison in Europe then they do in the United States, and there is far more to gain in the way of profits.
Local indigenous organized crime groups in Africa are as brutal, if not more so, than any in the world, but they have historically lacked the sophistication of global drug trafficking cartels and other transnational organized crime groups. However, they are now learning from the most advanced organized crime organizations in the world
Many Department of Defense detection and monitoring (D&M) resources, as well as maritime interdiction resources, were moved out of Southern Command’s area of responsibility after the 9/11 attacks on our Nation, and these resources have never been fully recouped. These assets are responsible for identifying and interdicting drug loads moving by sea and air. Although Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF-S) interdiction seizures have been nothing short of spectacular over the past few years, it is in large part due to our military working closer with federal law enforcement in the post 9/11 era. Needless to say, if Southern Command recovered those missing D&M and interdiction resources, the seizure numbers would be even greater, including the interdiction of drug loads destined for Europe via Africa.
The United States has already taken important steps to engage in this theater. Africom, the DEA and State Department each are devoting considerably more resources to drug issues in West Africa than they were a year or two ago. But by any measure it is not enough, and certainly has not slowed the flow of cocaine through the region. Compartmentalization, stove-piping of information and the continued focus on delimited geographic territories continue to hamper the effectiveness of counter drug programs. It is no longer a useful model to look at the old, static model of Latin American drug trafficking organizations because the new organizations operate on multiple continents rather than a single country or region. Hence, information sharing across regions and across U.S. government agencies is vital to beginning to significantly improve the situation.
The cocaine, heroin, chemical, money laundering, and narco-terrorism threats in Africa have an impact on the U.S., particularly since some of the drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) that smuggle illicit drugs in the U.S. are the same as those using Africa as a base of operations for smuggling operations into Europe and the Middle East
Since 2006, DEA investigations and intelligence collection initiatives indicate sub-Saharan Africa has become a major transshipment location for precursor chemicals destined for the Americas.. Khat also ultimately reaches the US from Africa, he added.
The threat of narco-terrorism in Africa is a real concern.... The transportation, money laundering and logistical infrastructures utilized by DTOs in Africa are vulnerable, wittingly or unwittingly, for use by terrorist organizations.
DEA alone does not have the resources or
authorities to implement parts of our Strategic Concept for Africa.
In conclusion, we are still discovering the scope of the problem in West Africa, and are in the process of building a complete picture and comprehensive plan to assist West African countries in becoming capable partners against drug trafficking organizations.
- AFRICOM CNT sponsorship of students from multiple West African nations on Africa Partnership Station to attend courses taught by US Coast Guard Trainers.
- Construction of a pier and refueling facility to extend the range of the Senegalese Navy.
- Supported the establishment of Cape Verde Maritime Security Interagency Operations Center, which is an interagency fusion center that will help to develop the regional intelligence picture and communications with US organizations like JIATF-S and the MAOC in Lisbon.
- Construction of a climate controlled facility at the international airport at Accra, Ghana to screen passengers suspected of swallowing drugs.
- Collaborating with 6th Fleet to construct a boat facility in Ghana to support Defender Class boats that were provided by the US.
- Supporting the training or the future Liberia Coast Guard Commander and Deputy Commander at the International Maritime Officer’s Course at the USCG training facility in Yorktown, VA
West Africa is appealing to traffickers for several reasons. It has endured a staggering level of poverty, which promotes a susceptibility to corruption: on average, 50% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. West Africa lies in close proximity to Latin America. Dakar, Senegal, is 700 miles closer to Recife, Brazil, than it is to Paris, France. West Africa’s borders also are mostly unguarded and porous. The region boasts more than 2,600 miles of coastline. In perspective, our Pacific coast (minus Alaska) and Atlantic coast each are less than 2,100 miles long. West Africa’s area and population are slightly less than that of our contiguous 48 states. Many governments do not have the legal systems, judicial structures, plans, funding, resources, and political will to combat drugs. Half the region’s population is under the age of 18 and the unemployment rate of the work-age population average is 30-50%. Thus, the trafficking of illegal narcotics is a lucrative alternative in a culture disposed to view narcotics like any other commodity to buy and sell.
Guinea-Bissau’s GDP is $340 million; that is the wholesale value of six tons of cocaine, which can easily be trans-shipped over one to two months. This creates a threat to good governance, local and regional stability, and development in West Africa. UNODC has noted that,“The relationship between diamond smuggling and the civil wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia has been well documented, but, at their peak, profits accruing from this activity amounted to some tens of millions of dollars per year. The potential destabilizing influence of the cocaine traffic, where the value of a single consignment can exceed that sum, is very real.”
Genetral Tagme Na Wai was killed by a sophisticated bomb, made in Thailand, the kind of device you need to buy outside of Guinea-Bissau; outside most of Africa, in fact, an indication of foreign involvement. It’s not clear who was flying on this jet. Planes are often used to smuggle cocaine to Europe but they usually don’t land at the main airport.
It will take at least ten years to develop a variety of staple grain that will survive in the climates caused by global warming in most parts of Africa, and the continent has less than two decades in which to do it, warn the authors of a new study.It adds:
Six countries in the Sahel - Senegal, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone, the hottest in Africa - are of major concern to the researchers, as they will face conditions unlike any currently encountered by farmers in the continent.
"Of course, parts of these countries will never be able to grow maize [which is more heat sensitive]," he said, and would have to settle for the "drought-tolerant maize, which is sorghum". Many parts of Africa would no longer be able to grow anything.
Guarino said it was possible to develop crop varieties in simulated conditions, based on projections for the Sahel belt, but very few traditional primary cereal crops - African varieties of maize, millet and sorghum - selected by farmers over the centuries for their unique suitability to local growing conditions were available in genebanks.
Under the new international dispensation, it is no longer necessary to control an entire state in order to exploit natural resources. It is enough to have access to the commodities in question. Some strongmen who lost state-guaranteed privileges turned to attacking states’ resource bases. Precious stones, gold, iron ore and even timber are lucrative resources on the world market. Those who sell them – whether legally so or not – make good incomes.
As state institutions became redundant, however, employment in the public sector began to dwindle. The number of alienated youth rose astronomically. Even many educated young men no longer had a perspective of steady employment. Youth unemployment in West Africa today is about 50 % (UNOWA 2006: iv). For most of the affected, the choices are
– armed robbery,
– joining a militia,
– smuggling cocaine to the West, or
– embarking on a dangerous journey to Europe across the Mediterranean with shanty boats.
It is easy for members of the disgruntled elite to recruit the unemployed as foot soldiers. Militia leaders can thrive on the global trade in conflict resources, while their rank and file terrorise societies. In an ironic twist, spreading violence boosts the standing and credibility of warlords, as they can offer a sense of security to those loyal to them.
Bill Lind suggests that the defining characteristic of 4GW is “a crisis in the legitimacy of the state.” This is sometimes simplified to “the decline of the state,” but it does not mean that states everywhere are going away. That is patently not the case.
Infamous for the astonishingly bad urban planning which located it across a large body of water from the capital city, Lungi is also notable for being the approximate size of a postage stamp. One runway, bordered by broken-down planes and a debris-strewn grassy plain, leads to an unimpressive two-story building with gap-toothed yellow-and-black letters spelling out Freetown Freetown Air Port Arrival International Airport. Inside are perhaps 5 main areas – lobby, departures immigration, security and departure lounge, arrivals immigration, and baggage claim. All together, the airport’s square footage is probably about the same as two average middle class American homes.
Now, security at Lungi is profoundly questionable at the best of times. There is no metal detector, no x-ray scanner, no narcotics-trained bloodhounds. Security consists of a cursory search (repeated three times but never involving more than a superficial rifling) of all luggage, and a physical pat-down to check for weapons or contraband.
First problem: it would be profoundly difficult for this process to uncover any but the most blatantly obvious breaches of law or security. When someone opens my backpack zipper, peers inside, and then zips it closed again, they’re apt to miss anything smaller than an AK-47. As proof, I can tell you that I have on several occasions brought 1.5-liter bottles of water through security in my carry-on backpack without detection. (Purely accidentally, of course – I have the utmost respect for the “put your 3-oz facial moisturizer in a plastic baggie and we’re all safe” rule, and would never try to smuggle extra drinking water on board.) In case you’re not clear, a 1.5-liter bottle of water is quite large. Almost the size of a big jug of Coke. If they can’t find that, how exactly will they find hidden narcotics or diamonds?
Second problem: it is tremendously easy to bypass this procedure entirely. You don’t have to be much of a VIP or pull too many strings to find someone to walk you straight out onto the tarmac and on board the plane. If my businessmen friends can do this with one simple phone call because they’re late and want to catch their flight, a cocaine baron could clearly arrange something of the sort to facilitate his multi-million dollar cargo. And anyway, the grounds of the airport are totally open to the surrounding community, so pretty much anyone can wander in and out as he pleases.
But all these problems pale in comparison to what happens when the security officers themselves stop taking their job very seriously – or at all seriously.
The strengthened monitoring and control of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine shipments to North America helped to prevent the diversion of those substances in the region. However, trafficking networks have been exploring new ways to supply illicit methamphetamine laboratories in that region. It is believed that smuggling and diversion of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine from domestic distribution channels are now among the most common methods of supply. As orders for raw materials are brought under increasing scrutiny by authorities worldwide, traffickers have turned to placing orders with legitimate pharmaceutical companies for preparations containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, purportedly to be sent to developing countries. In many regions, controls over pharmaceutical preparations continued to be less stringent or even non-existent. Numerous cases of diversion and attempted diversion of ephedrine and
pseudoephedrine, often in the form of preparations,
were identified and reported to the Board. In those
cases, traffickers targeted the following countries in
- Bosnia and Herzegovina,
- Democratic Republic of the Congo,
- South Africa,
- United Arab Emirates,
- United Republic of
Africa remains a major area of diversion of precursors of amphetamine-type stimulants. At the same time, trafficking patterns in Africa stand in sharp contrast with the low number of seizures made by Governments in the region. In 2008, participants in Project Prism and in Operation Ice Block identified numerous suspicious shipments to Africa that were suspected of having Mexico as their final destination. In total, over 30 tons of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine were prevented from being diverted to or through Africa.
48. Organized criminal groups have made use of fictitious companies and falsified import authorizations and company documents for their trafficking activities. Ethiopia, in particular, was targeted by traffickers who attempted to consign two shipments of pseudoephedrine and one shipment of ephedrine totalling 12.5 tons. The shipments, which involved falsified import licences, were stopped at the request of the Ethiopian authorities. The United Republic of Tanzania also was a victim of the falsification of import permits. Countries in Africa were importing quantities of those substances in considerable excess of the amounts reported as their legitimate annual needs. One instance of such inconsistency involved a single shipment to Uganda of 300 kg of pseudoephedrine, which was seized upon arrival. The Board notes with concern that a number of African States have consistently failed to respond to enquiries about potentially suspicious transactions, owing in part to lack of capacity in the competent authorities involved.
After Mexico banned the import of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, imports by several Central and South American countries increased significantly. Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have been targeted by organized criminal groups for purposes of acquiring the substances and subsequently smuggling them from those domestic markets into North America, thereby circumventing the controls in place and ensuring the supply for illicit drug manufacture operations. The Board alerted the Government of Argentina to the increasingly excessive imports of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine into that country over the past several years. In 2008, the Argentinean authorities seized 1,222 kg of ephedrine. In one case, a consignment of 600 kg of ephedrine was discovered concealed in a shipment of sugar being exported to Mexico. The main importing companies in Argentina have been scrutinized by the authorities to verify the legitimate end use of the substance. As of the present writing, one major company has been closed and others have forfeited their licences as evidence grows that they were supplying illicit manufacturers of methamphetamine.
50. An increase in seizures of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in Central America and South America was reported, with Guatemala and Peru seizing large amounts of pseudoephedrine tablets. The destruction in July 2008 of the first methamphetamine laboratory ever in Argentina provides a clear indication of the growing interest of trafficking organizations in sourcing precursors of amphetamine-type stimulants from South America
In this century's fight for Eurasia, like that of the last century, Mackinder's axiom holds true: Man will initiate, but nature will control. Liberal universalism and the individualism of Isaiah Berlin aren't going away, but it is becoming clear that the success of these ideas is in large measure bound and determined by geography. This was always the case, and it is harder to deny now, as the ongoing recession will likely cause the global economy to contract for the first time in six decades. Not only wealth, but political and social order, will erode in many places, leaving only nature's frontiers and men's passions as the main arbiters of that age-old question: Who can coerce whom? We thought globalization had gotten rid of this antiquarian world of musty maps, but now it is returning with a vengeance.
We all must learn to think like Victorians. That is what must guide and inform our newly rediscovered realism. Geographical determinists must be seated at the same honored table as liberal humanists, thereby merging the analogies of Vietnam and Munich. Embracing the dictates and limitations of geography will be especially hard for Americans, who like to think that no constraint, natural or otherwise, applies to them. But denying the facts of geography only invites disasters that, in turn, make us victims of geography.
Dabo had been a singer and a journalist before entering politics. He became the Minister of Territorial Administration and a senior member of the governing African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). He was a close ally of President Joao Bernardo Vieira who was assassinated by members of the armed forces, who blamed him for an explosion which killed the Chief of Staff, Batista Tagme Na Wai on 2 March 2009. There had been a long and violent feud between Vieira and Na Wai. No-one was prosecuted for the killing and a presidential election was scheduled for 28 June to select a new president. Dabo resigned as a minister in May 2009 to put himself forward as an independent candidate and became one of 13 candidates contesting the election. Election campaigning was due to open on 6 June.
His supporters say that between 3.30 and 4 am (local and GMT) on 5 June 2009 a group of around 30 uniformed and armed soldiers arrived at his home and demanded to see him. The soldiers were then said to have shot their way to Dabo's bedroom where he was asleep in bed with his wife, injuring some of his six-member security team in the process. The soldiers are then alleged to have shot Dabo several times, killing him instantly. News agency, Agence France-Presse has stated that a "medical source" told them that Dabo had suffered three Kalashnikov bullet wounds to the abdomen and one to the head, fired from short range.
The Guinea-Bissauan authorities present a different series of events and say that he died in an exchange of fire whilst resisting arrest over an alleged coup plot. Former Defence Minister is also reported to have been killed on a road between Bula and Bissau alongside his driver and a bodyguard. The BBC says there are unconfirmed reports that former Prime Minister Faustino Fudut Imbali was also killed, and his wife says that he was taken away by the military. Several other PAIGC politicians have been detained by security forces as part of the coup investigation. The Guinea-Bissauan state intelligence service says that the coups aims were "physically eliminating the head of the armed forces, overthrowing the interim head of state and dissolving the national assembly".
It has been suggested by journalists that he was killed on the orders of military leaders who feared prosecution over the assassination of the president had Dabo won the election. It is feared that if a power vacuum occurs Latin American drug cartels will be able to extend their influence over the country, which serves as a port for the shipping of cocaine to Europe.
"The initial ransom demand — $3 million — was negotiated down to $1 million.
But by the time the ship, which was carrying a knockdown oil rig and a crew of four Russians and five Filipinos, was returned, Scan-Trans had spent $5 million."
There is also the very real possibility that the problem could worsen drastically as demand continues to rise. Furthermore, coca is a hardy plant that can survive in even harsh climes. Thus, it may only be a matter of time before West Africa's drug trafficking problem becomes a drug production problem.