AROUND AFRICA: Mali, West Africa Drug Traffic, Guinea-Bissau
More unrest in Mali. Earlier this week an angry mob stormed the presidential palace and attacked the interim president.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore suffered a head wound after Monday’s attack by protesters, the Associated Press reported. He was treated and released from a hospital a few hours later.
Now the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is threatening to impose sanctions on those responsible.
The political situation has been chaotic in the largely desert northwest African nation since a military coup on March 21 when the democratically elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure, was forced from office. Soldiers blamed him for botching the response to a rebellion by Tuaregs in the north.
Rebels swept over the northern half of the country after the coup. A number of militant Islamists followed in their wake sparking the imposition of strict Muslim sharia law in some areas.
War on Drugs
The use of West Africa as a staging point for the shipment of narcotics to Europe by international drug cartels is getting more attention from U.S. And international organizations.
Officials in the Cape Verde islands seized 1.5 metric tons of cocaine with assistance of the new Counter narcotics and Maritime Interagency Operations Center there that U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) helped to support.
AFRICOM is also collaborating with the U.S. State Department and Drug Enforcement Agency to help Ghana establish a specialized counter drug unit.
In testimony before a Senate panel May 16, William Wechsler, deputy assistant secretary of defense for counter narcotics and global threats, said the drug cartels, increasingly under the gun in the Western Hemisphere, are turning to Africa – especially the politically unstable countries of West Africa.
“As they target the lucrative and growing European market for cocaine,” he said, “we are also concerned about trafficking of southwest Asian heroin, as well as other drugs, such as khat.”
Restoring the Rule of Law
One of the countries said to be most penetrated by Latin American drug lords in Guinea-Bissau, which also saw its government overthrown by an April military coup.
Now the military junta says it is handing back power to a civilian regime, the BBC reports, but foreign observers are skeptical.
ECOWAS brokered a deal with the junta to organize elections in a year. Meanwhile more than 600 peacekeeping troops are to be stationed in the former Portuguese colony – .about 70 soldiers from Burkina Faso have arrived so far.