drug trafficking and african politics

UPDATE: Obama names Harun Mwau as a drug kingpin.

President Obama, in a letter to the US Congress, named a prominent Kenyan member of parliament and one of the wealthiest Kenyans, Harun Mwau, as a drug kingpin. Mr. Mwau is a renowned Kenyan businessman with links to container depots, retail and banking interests, among other investments.

I am still waiting for official reaction from the Kenyan government on the Obama letter to the US Congress.

Kenya, Gambia, Ghana, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea. All these countries have experienced allegations that people high up in government – sometimes individuals very close to the heads of state – are involved in drug trafficking. Africa is a major transit point for drugs from Latin America and Asia into Europe.

The latest news on this subject is the jailing of Sheryl Cwele, the wife of South Africa’s intelligence minister. Ms Cwele was found guilty of recruiting women to smuggle drugs in and out of the country. It is hard to imagine that the intelligence minister was not aware of the fact that his wife was a drug trafficker.  Cwele refuses to resign.

In the recent past a woman close to President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya was allegedly linked to a ring of East European drug traffickers. The murder of President Joao Vieira of Guinea-Bissau was also thought to be connected to a dispute involving Latin American drug lords. Ghana’s President Atta Mills has publicly admitted that it is hard to deal with the problem of drug trafficking because powerful people in the country’s security apparatus are involved.

The South African, Kenyan and Ghanaian cases are particularly alarming. Most people would imagine that only incorrigibly inept kleptocracies such as Jammeh’s Gambia or Vieira’s Guinea-Bissau would engage in drug trafficking. If better run places with stronger states cannot tackle drug trafficking who will?

6 thoughts on “drug trafficking and african politics

  1. Pingback: Africa: Drug trafficking and African politics · Global Voices

  2. Well, if the us smuggle heroin from Afghanistan in their Military Planees, why should this cause an uproar?


  3. Yes, I agree. This seems to be a big and widespread problem. High-level officials in Benin and Sierra Leone have been dismissed for links to drug trafficking investigations. A major political party donor in Mozambique is on U.S. drug trafficking sanctions list. Several MPs in Kenya have been linked to trafficking drugs. This is not just about interdicting drug syndicates and arresting ordinary criminals, but about protecting vulnerable government institutions from intrusion by trannational organized criminal groups. I think the answer is better mechanisms for checks and balances and accountability within governments. These are crucial for tackling drug trafficking and transnational organized crime more generally. I wrote a piece on this subject and would greatly welcome your thoughts/feedback: http://africacenter.org/2010/07/cocaine-and-instability-in-africa-lessons-from-latin-america-and-the-caribbean/


  4. Great piece. I am waiting to see how the Kenyan case plays out. People high up in government and parliament have been implicated. I hope a parliamentary committee will force an audit on this soon. Also, do you have any more info/leads to the case in Ghana?


  5. Pingback: Africa: Drug trafficking and African politics @ Current Affairs | Christian News Reports News

  6. Pingback: Africa’s budding narco-states? « Opalo's weblog

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