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In the Sahel, drug trafficking thrives thanks to armed groups

In the Sahel, drug trafficking thrives thanks to armed groups
Seized cocaine is seen on a table on the premises of the Office central...   -  
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BOUREIMA HAMA/AFP or licensors


Drug trafficking continues to thrive in the Sahel thanks to non-state armed groups which are very active there, indicates the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in its 2023 report published Monday in Niamey.

According to the UNODC report, the quantities of cocaine seized in the Sahel - Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad - jumped last year. They increase from 13 kg per year between 2015 and 2020 and 35 kg in 2021 to 863 kg in 2022.

The largest seizures were made in Burkina Faso (488 kg), Mali (160 kg) and Niger (215 kg) and "are probably only the tip of the iceberg of much larger undetected flows" . notes the report seen by AFP.

In most countries of the Sahel, drug trafficking is organized "by for-profit criminal groups", notes the report.

These armed groups, which have joined the traditional networks of traffickers, finance themselves in particular through the payment of taxes and other duties in exchange for protection or safe passage through the areas they control.

For years Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, three of the poorest states in the world, have been confronted with armed bandits or jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS).

The panel of experts on Mali, quoted in the report, points out that armed groups of various stripes have been implicated in transporting drug shipments, including cocaine and cannabis resin, illustrating that illicit markets provide financial resources.

Besides cocaine, herbal cannabis remains "the most seized drug in the Sahel", with 36 tons in 2021, "a record", according to the report. The largest quantities were also intercepted in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

In the coastal countries of West Africa, large seizures of drugs generally transiting between Latin America and Europe are regularly made: in April 2022, more than two tonnes of cocaine had been intercepted in particular on the of ivory.

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