AROUND AFRICA: West Africa Drug Trafficking, the Sahel Drought, Senegal’s Election, Nigerian Violence

February 22, 2012 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

West Africa and the Sahel

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

West Africa and the zone between the Sahara and the savannah lands, known as the Sahel, are being buffeted by a wave of troubles from cocaine trafficking and sectarian strife, to piracy and a growing food crisis. Here’s a rundown from numerous press acounts:

Cocaine Trafficking

South American drug cartels are taking advantage of West Africa’s poverty, corruption, weak law enforcement and porous borders to ship drugs worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Europe, according to a United Nations agency.

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that cocaine trafficking in est and Central Africa generates “some $900 million annually,” the Associated Press reports.

And U.N. Secretary Ban-Ki-Moon has growing concern about stability in West Africa and the Sahel region to the north “because of a rise in organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy, a growing food crisis and the influx of weapons from the upheaval in Libya,” AP says.

Food Crisis

Sahara Desert countries. (Map courtesy of Enviro-map.com)

The United Nations says 10 million people in the Sahel are facing a food crisis brought on by drought, poor harvests and population dislocation in the region due to the Libyan revolt, a Tuareg rebellion in Mali and violence in other parts of the region, according to another press report.

Countries affected by the crisis include Senegal, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Senegal’s government, caught up in a contentious presidential election, doesn’t appear to be focusing on the situation, according to the Voice of America.

Senegal Tensions

CIA World Factbook

Senegal’s capital, Dakar, has been wracked by demonstrations as opposition groups threaten to make the West African country ungovernable if the incumbent president, 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade, runs for a third term in this weekend’s coming election.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is in Senegal as an election observer, is trying to make peace, according to an AP story via  Time magazine.

The opposition galvanized when the Senegalese Supreme Court ruled that Wade could run again. At least six people have been killed in demonstrations this year. Previously, the country has been seen as a model democracy and remains the only one in the region where the Army has never seized power.

Nigerian Violence

Meanwhile, more violence is reported in northern Nigeria where a radical Islamist group has killed at least 300 people. The latest incident was a series of explosions in Kano, Nigeria’s second-largest city, in the predominantly Muslim northern part of the country.

There were no immediate reports of casualties but authorities are concerned that it might be another attack by Boko Haram, a increasingly violent group bent on imposing sharia, or Islamic, law in northern Nigeria.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, International Crime, International Relief, National Security and Defense. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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