GUINEA-BISSAU: UN report implicates government in drug trafficking

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The government and the army in Guinea Bissau are implicated in drug trafficking according to the latest report on Guinea Bissau by the UN Secretary-General.

“Drug trafficking threatens to subvert the nascent democratisation process of Guinea-Bissau, entrench organised crime and undermine respect for the rule of law,” the report, issued on 28 September, concluded.

The report cited specific examples of possible government involvement in drug trafficking including, “the alleged involvement of several high-level officials of the Government of the former Prime Minister, Aristides Gomes, in the disappearance of 670 kilograms of cocaine seized by the authorities,” it said.

The UN Secretary-General also cited numerous complaints of the government intimidating journalists and human rights workers investigating drug trafficking.

The report said the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea Bissau provided protection to a local human rights activist Mário Sá Gomes “after he expressed his views on the alleged involvement of military personnel in drug trafficking in the country.”

“Gomes left the United Nations premises on 23 August, after my Representative obtained assurances from the Minister of the Interior, on behalf of the Government, that he would not be harmed or arrested and would be offered protection by the Government,” the Secretary-General said in the report.

The West and Central African regional UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has documented dozens of cases of drugs being intercepted in Guinea Bissau but few people have been charged, UNODC regional representative Antonio Mazzitelli told IRIN.

Two Colombians were recently arrested for money laundering and illegal possession of firearms in Guinea Bissau, according to Mazzitelli, who said they have since been released and their whereabouts are unknown. He said that one of the Colombians is suspected of having close ties to rebel the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC.

Another international official speaking on condition of anonymity said that two Guinea Bissau soldiers, a captain and his driver, were recently caught with large quantities of drugs on them but they too have since been freed.

He and other officials said drugs are the cause of rising tensions in Guinea Bissau with senior government and army military leaders competing for the right to provide security to drug traffickers.

“The drug traffickers don’t want conflict. They want a reliable partner to facilitate the movement of their goods,” Mazzitelli said. “But there is a split within the government and it is becoming increasingly antagonistic.”

One schism that is very public is between the head of all the armed forces and the head of the navy. They are rarely seen in public at the same function and several officials in Bissau said various political leaders are lining up behind the two military leaders.

“It’s possible that one side is the good guys who are trying to stop the drug traffickers,” Mazzitelli said. “But it’s hard to tell as each [is] making accusations against the other.”

He said he is confident, however, that the new Justice Minister Carmelita Pires is serious about trying to stop the drug trade. But since launching an emergency plan to fight drug trafficking she has received numerous death threats and she is not getting proper protection, he said.

Source: IRIN
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