Beginning in the middle of the last decade, the international community was alerted to the fact that drug trafficking in West Africa was in danger of spawning a series of near ‘narco-states’: countries whose economies, politics and social structures were being infiltrated and distorted by the drug trade.
Some seven years later, after an inadequate and uncoordinated response to that call to arms, the inevitable has happened. Where previously cocaine trafficking was one of the most important challenges the subregion faced, this has compounded exponentially, deepening a crisis of statehood that may be difficult to reverse.
The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) has just started the first phase of a year-long research project funded by the National Endowment for Democracy on the relationship between statehood and illicit trafficking in West Africa. Recent interviews conducted on the ground in the subregion highlight unequivocally that current attempts at solving drug trafficking throughout West Africa have not achieved their stated objectives. Of more importance, however, is that they bring to the fore the seeming absence of political will – either nationally or internationally – to address the problem.
About the author:
Mark Shaw is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria and Director, Communities, Crime and Conflict, STATT Consulting, Hong Kong.