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Author : David Zounmenou
Affiliated organization : Institute for Security Studies (ISS) Africa
Site of publication : issafrica.org
Type of publication : Article
Date of publication : 14, December 2021
Almost 42 tons of cocaine transited through or were intercepted in West African coastal states between 2019 and 2021, says the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC). These include Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal.
Benin is increasingly becoming a hotspot in the global drug trafficking network. By June 2021, Benin’s share of the illicit trade amounted to 1.3 tons.
The recent seizures and increasing attempts to ship drugs to or via Benin show that traffickers are still looking for alternative routes to Europe or North America. Benin’s poor land and maritime border management, together with corruption at various law enforcement levels, continue to play a role in traffickers’ attempts to use the country for their illicit trade. Traffickers exploit such vulnerabilities. Even COVID-19-related travel restrictions didn’t disrupt the trade in Benin.
Benin is increasingly becoming a hotspot in the global drug trafficking network. By June 2021, Benin’s share of the illicit trade amounted to 1.3 tons
Sources interviewed in Benin told the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) that several factors could explain the many recent seizures by law enforcement agencies. Some say Benin’s external partners, particularly the United States, have increased pressure on the government to reinforce the fight against the illicit drug trade and related transnational criminal activities. This is part of their efforts to counter violent extremism in the region through closer diplomatic and institutional collaboration, and technical and financial aid.
Since 2010, it has tried to improve the anti-drug laws and institutional framework. Institutions such as the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Fight against the Abuse of Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances, the Central Office for the Repression of Illicit Traffic in Drugs and Precursors, and CRIET were tasked to lead efforts against drug trafficking.
Since June 2021, authorities have arrested several people, including some law enforcement officers and national and foreign businesspeople. The government has also destroyed large quantities of seized drugs. Since July 2021, 4.7 tons of drugs, including 613 kg of cocaine, have been incinerated by Benin officials. However these measures don’t seem to deter traffickers.
Situated in a volatile region struggling to root out violent extremism and other factors of instability, the illicit drug trade could provide additional resources to armed groups active in the region
Sources say perceptions of weak, partial and selective justice in most cases continue to undermine law enforcement agencies’ credibility. It’s also unclear whether those arrested are the kingpins or those working for them.
Large-scale arrests and prompt jail sentences aren’t enough. Authorities need to reinforce national entities’ capacity and provide adequate technologies to conduct thorough investigations on the sources, transit, support networks and destinations of illegal drug parcels to dismantle existing networks.
Here regional and international technical cooperation is also essential to share information and coordinate responses. Drug cartels are powerful and well-organised crime entrepreneurs with enough resources to undermine weak states’ repressive machinery. Political will isn’t enough – governments and their partners must provide adequate resources to their institutions to resist corruption and infiltration.
Large-scale arrests and prompt jail sentences aren’t enough. Authorities need to reinforce national entities’ capacity and provide adequate technologies to conduct thorough investigations on the sources, transit, support networks and destinations of illegal drug parcels to dismantle existing networks
Fighting the problem in Benin also needs a comprehensive inter-agency strategy on drug trafficking that reduces supply and demand. And given the vulnerability of the youth to drugs, the socio-economic root causes that feed the illicit trade locally should also be addressed.
Situated in a volatile region struggling to root out violent extremism and other factors of instability, the illicit drug trade could provide additional resources to armed groups active in the region.
Local sources warn against growing drug-related money laundering schemes through property development, political activities, illicit fuel or the trade of used cars, motorcycles and other commodities.