Drug Trafficking in West Africa: an Emerging Security Threat
Over the last decade it has been documented by various international and regional organisations that West Africa is becoming the new hub for the trafficking of illicit drugs, mostly cocaine, from Latin America to Europe. The reason for this change in strategy of the Latin American drug cartels are the changing market trends (European demand for cocaine has increased) and the growing counter-narcotic measures of Western countries. This strategic choice, to ship cocaine to Europe via West Africa, is a win-win situation for the drug trafficking organisations. Not only is West Africa geographically ideally located to use for transhipments, it is also a region that is composed of mainly poor and underdeveloped countries, that are still managing a past of violence and instability. This is a great advantage for the drug trafficking organisations because these countries often don’t have the resources to efficiently combat transnational crime within their borders. The lacking of sufficient means to stop the well-equipped drug traffickers is combined with very porous borders, a weak jurisdictional system and a very high degree of corruption. This availability of officials that are willing to cooperate or facilitate the drug trafficking is corrupting West African state institutions. The choice of West Africa is definitely the cheapest path of least resistance for Latin American drug trafficking organisations. This emerging drug trade is the cause of many security threats threatening the region and the states. The greatest threats posed by the drug trade are (3.1.1) the effect the drug trade has on government and state institutions, (3.1.2) the threats to human security such as drug abuse and the effect the drug trade has on the already widespread poverty and (3.1.2) the alleged support of terrorist organisations with drug money.
2 Transnational organised crime as a security issue
Before considering the effects of the drug trafficking on the West-African states I shall describe the threats that transnational organised crime poses to international and national security.
Transnational organised crime is a concept that has found its way into the security studies after the Cold War, when security studies started to exceed the conventional threats and started to include other threats such as ecological threats, unemployment, social problems etc. The discourse of transnational organised crime as a concept of security studies has enlarged when, after 9/11, the connection between the money of criminal groups and the funding of terrorist groups with this money was established. Transnational organised crime represents a new form of security threats, whereby a distinction with traditional security threats is made, which were primarily related to war and the danger of invasion from a state-centric point of view (Dordevic, 2009). In this era of globalization, transnational organised crime becomes more and more significant and dangerous and is therefore commonly described as “the dark side of globalization” (Picarelli, 2008). The threat to nation-states is not that of a single internationally cooperating organised crime network. The real threat consists in a large number of politically and economically powerful transnational organised criminal organisations that operate regionally and globally. They undermine political and economical security as well as social well-being. In many countries transnational organised criminal organisations have obtained functions in the institutions of the state, and they impede economic development and the transition to democracy (Shelley, 2001). The depth and breadth of transnational organised crime is too complex to be captured by a single theory of international security. Transnational organised crime poses the biggest danger by undermining certain important components of...
Dordevic S., “Understanding transnational organized crime as a Security threat and Security Theories”, Western Balkans Security Observer, 2009.
Picarelli J., “Transnational organised crime” in “Security Studies: an introduction”, New York, Routledge, 2008.
Shelley L., “Transnational organised crime: An imminent threat to the nation state?”, Journal of International Affairs, 2001, 45, no° 2.
Gastrow P., “Termites at work: Transnational Organised Crime and state erosion in Kenya”, 2011, International Peace Institute
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