The day-long meeting, which will discuss two reports on the illicit drug trade and organized crime, is expected to come up with a strategy for combating the twin phenomena.World Bulletin/News Desk
An African ministerial meeting kicked off in Addis Ababa on Thursday to discuss ways of tackling drug trafficking and organized crime on the continent.
The day-long meeting, which will discuss two reports on the illicit drug trade and organized crime, is expected to come up with a strategy for combating the twin phenomena.
According to the two reports, Africa's drug trade is worth an estimated $1.2 billion per year.
Addressing the meeting, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo said that drug trafficking had taken a toll on Africa's electoral processes.
"We believe that West Africa's electoral processes are worryingly vulnerable to corruption by drug money," Obasajo, who oversaw the drafting of one of the two reports, said in a speech that was read out by African Union Trade and Industry Commissioner Fatima Haram Acyl during the opening session.
"Drugs and drug money invade and undermine societies," he added. "In some countries, people in positions of power, the security services and extremist groups have competed for the spoils of drug trafficking."
"We abhor the drug traffickers and their accomplices, who must face the full force of the law," he asserted.
Obasanjo, however, went on to warn against stigmatizing and punishing drug users.
"Drug users need help, not punishment," he said. "We recommend the decriminalization of drug use and low-level, non-violent drug offenses."
Thursday's ministerial meeting was officially opened by Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome.
"I have full trust that this ministerial conference and the launch [of the two reports] will produce valuable outcomes and guidance to help the continent move from policy to concrete action in addressing the challenges posed by drugs," Teshome told attendees at the opening session.
African heads of state and government have made a political commitment to addressing the issue by their adoption of the revised A.U. Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention 2013-2017.