Harare, Oct 17 — Proceeds of drug trafficking are likely to be used by extremist groups in east and west Africa to band-roll terrorist activities in the growing vulnerable region, an African Union official said Wednesday.
The drug problem is actively linked with other forms of organised crimes such as terrorism and trafficking of small arms, Xinhua quoted Olawale Maiyegun, director of the African Union Commission’s social affairs department, as saying at a meeting on drug control here.
“In the case of Mali, proceeds from drug trafficking were used to fund destabilisation in the northern part of the country,” he said, adding that though the link is obvious in some cases, it would be premature to say so for all the terrorist activities.
Maiyegun said there was no part of Africa that was free from drug trafficking although the crime was more prevalent in west Africa and recently in the continent’s eastern region.
Drug control experts say West Africa has been a major transit route for cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe while east Africa served as a transit point for trafficking of heroin from the New Crescent area including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in east Africa the seizures of heroin increased almost 10-fold since 2009.
Maiyegun said with Kenya suffering more organised crime, there was a possibility that proceeds from piracy could have been used to commit the recent terrorist attack at the Westgate shopping mall that killed 67 civilians and security agents and injured at least 175 others.
“There is high crime in Kenya including piracy, drug trafficking and terrorism and I have no doubt that money from piracy played a significant role in the recent attack at the shopping mall,” he said.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was retribution for Kenya’s military deployment in neighbouring Somalia.
“Traffickers are seeking markets and will always look for the weakest links in the chain of member states,” Maiyegun said.
The official said Africa therefore needed to develop stronger, harmonised laws to combat drug trafficking and abuse. And the response needs to focus on reducing both the supply and demand for drugs.
“As long as there is demand there will always be supply of the illicit drugs on the market,” Maiyegun said.