Guinea-Bissau’s Drug Saga a Replica of Africa

Published on 12th April 2010

The US recently named two senior army officers in Guinea Bissau as drug kingpins in West Africa. This came after the army ousted Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto, former head of navy who along with Ibraima Papa Camara (air force head) were named as drug kingpins in the region. Apart from naming them, their US-base properties will be frozen. 

Looking at the influence of the suspects, one can ascertain why drug peddling is becoming a chronic problem in almost all African countries south of Sahara. If such top officials are the hitters, movers and shakers behind drug deals, who can touch them or their business?  

Kenya and Tanzania are facing a great threat from drug peddling. Despite our rulers’ reassurance to thwart this silent killer of our young people (thanks to frustration, unemployment and illiteracy) theirs has been mere words devoid of actions. 

President Jakaya Kikwete once told the media that he has the list of drug barons. Two years down the line, nobody has been apprehended in connection with crimes involving drugs! Many Tanzanians are still asking: why doesn’t the president want to apprehend these guys? Does he benefit from this crime against the poor? Is he afraid of them thanks to being ‘big fish’ in his pond?  

One MP once suggested that Tanzanian authorities arrest petty pushers and users and force them to disclose the ‘big fish’ that sell drugs to them.  Within a short time, the MP died under suspicious circumstances. This being the warning and the way Tanzania Mafioso settle their score; nobody’s ever stood to talk about fighting drugs in the country. 

Kenya is now complaining that Mombasa has become a hub of drug dealings. The thing hither is Tanzania supplies Mombasa thanks to unmanned Indian Ocean.  

More on Guinea Bissau: "Naming these two individuals as kingpins enables us to then target their facilitators, people who might be laundering money for them or assisting them in moving drugs," observed Adam Szubin, head of the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control. 

Looking at the big guns mentioned in Guinea Bissau, no doubt the authorities were well aware of their deals. But who would touch such untouchables? This, therefore, is the tip of the iceberg of what is going on in Africa where top connected officials use their power to deal in drugs and solicit money that keeps them in power.  

Szubin added: "We certainly have noted with concern that the narcotics trafficking and the revenues from it play a destabilizing role, not only in Guinea-Bissau, but in other countries in West Africa and throughout the world." 

Ironically, drugs and corruption are solidly intertwined and are highly paying business in Africa. What’s been going on in Guinea Bissau is but a typical replica of what’s going on in Africa as a whole. Ask Kenyans how scams like Goldenberg and Anglo-Leasing were addressed. Ask Tanzanians about the EPA and Richmond scandals. Thanks to touching big guns and their masters in power, nobody will ever be brought to book. Who can cut the hand that feeds him? Without dealing with the rulers that are sheathing the culprits, drug dealing will thrive more and more. 

Many politicians spend money obtained from drugs and corruption to attain their dubious political ambitions. They’re the beneficiaries of this heinous crime.  To do away from these two vices, Africa must be forced to embark on productive and responsible politics.  

It is only in Africa and the Middle East where a pauper can wake up a tycoon without questioning. People avert paying tax and indulge in drug dealing thanks to such laxity and lack of a system to control dirty money. This is why many criminals from the Middle East, India and Pakistan like to move to East Africa. Most movers and shakers in scandals involving billions of shillings in Kenya and Tanzania are of Asian origin. Kamlesh Pattni and Ketan Somaiya were behind Kenya’s Goldenberg scandal. Deepak Kamani was behind Anglo Leasing in Kenya. Rostam Aziz, Somaiya and Shailesh Vithrani were behind Tanzania’s EPA, Richmond and radar-cum-presidential jet scandals. 

Venal rulers like these people because when things go wrong, they can easily repatriate them. Also, their number is relatively small when it comes to sharing the spoils. This method was formulated by colonial masters in Africa by selecting the minority to share with them spoils. 

When foreign criminals gang up with corrupt rulers, the economy of the countries they target receive a big blow as it  once happened to Kenya and Tanzania whose economy, at one time, was on the verge of collapse thanks to the above mentioned scandals among others. There are some reports that 90% of the economy of Tanzania is owned by just one percent that consists of Indians and Europeans! Methinks. The situation is the same in Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and elsewhere. 

A criminal infested system is difficult to burst. It needs a myth buster to take on it. These gangs of highly placed spineless creatures do not only run drugs. These bêtes noix also are involved in robbing banks and aid money, evading tax, importing substandard goods, money laundering, capital flight, grooming and supporting heartless politicians and what not. It has its corrupt presidents, ministers, judges, lawyers, policemen and women, immigration officers, you name it. 

Such corrupt and rotten regimes are a time bomb. It must be appreciated that wherever there is corruption, so too, there’s drug running. It is time the drug menace in Africa  was tackled  head on!

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