World Federation Against Drugs Release in response to The Report of the West African Commission on Drugs urging West African Countries to Decriminalize/Legalize Drugs
A Report titled, “Not Just in transit Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa” prepared by a group of ex-public servants and some Civil Society activists under the auspices of the West African Commission on Drugs (WACD) has been brought to the notice of the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD).
After perusing the said Report, WFAD wishes to highlight the following facts pertinent to the Report with a view towards putting the intention and objectives of its sponsors and originators in proper perspective.
WACD was established in 2013, soon after some of its principal financiers, the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Open Society Institute had declared their support for the global decriminalization/legalization of drugs. WACD appears to have been set up to champion the quest by its financiers for decriminalization/legalization of drugs. The purported assemblage of ‘experts from across the continents’ to prepare The Report, a Report for which WACD was set up for, clearly has not been above board.
The entirety of The Report is spiced and garnished with carefully selected data and statistics from territories, foreign and distant from the West African sub-region, with little, if any, socio-cultural and geo-political similarities to the sub-region. As such, the relevance of such data and statistics as foundations for a fundamental reversal in drug policies is highly doubtful.
The Report, whilst recognizing the importance of treatment and rehabilitation services and facilities in addressing the drug scourge plaguing any territory, and as a component aspect of the decriminalization/legalization of drugs, fails to acknowledge the near total absence of such services and facilities in the West African sub-region. Any attempts to dabble into decriminalization/legalization of drugs in the absence of well-structured and efficient treatment and rehabilitation programs will certainly spell doom for the sub-region.
The call for decriminalization/legalization of drugs, as contained in The Report, is in direct conflict with the provisions of various international protocols and conventions on narcotics/drugs. West African States, which are all State parties to these international conventions would, be in breach of their commitments as responsible members of the international community if they were to heed the request for decriminalization/legalization of drugs being championed by WACD.
By not factoring in any measures to protect the millions of children (who constitute well over 50% of the population of West African countries) from the harmful and debilitating effects of drugs, the gist of the Report by WACD encourages non- compliance with Article 33 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in addition to running afoul of the provisions of a multiplicity of international conventions on narcotics and psychotropic substances. Article 33 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides: “ States Parties shall take all appropriate measures, including legislative, administrative, social and educational measures, to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties, and to prevent the use of children in the illicit production and trafficking of such substances”.
A natural progression from the postulations contained in The Report that decriminalization/legalization of drugs would reduce the ‘enormous’ burden the war on drugs has placed on the sub-regions Criminal Justice System, particularly in terms of the number of persons incarcerated for drug-related offences, would be to also assert that the decriminalization/legalization of theft/stealing would be to any society’s best interest as it will lead to a decongestion of prisons – obviously not a very sound proposition.
As one of the cardinal arguments for decriminalization/legalization of drugs, The Report places repeated emphasis on the impact of ‘Drug Trafficking’ as a factor that greatly undermines already weak States and a tool for political instability across the West African sub-region – lavishly citing the example of Guinea-Bissau. This argument is at the very least tenuous, but most likely, deliberately mischievous.
Pervasive large-scale corruption, endemic in the West African sub-region, which has served to weaken State institutions and ensure continuing widespread poverty and maladministration in the sub-region, rendering the countries in the sub-region increasingly incapable of meeting the needs of their populations, is the bane of West Africa. Would a solution to the scourge of large-scale corruption be, as suggested by The Report with regards to the scourge of drug abuse, be to decriminalize/legalize large-scale corruption?
9. The weak public health infrastructure of the West African sub-region is presently, totally overwhelmed by the high prevalence of infectious and communicable diseases, grapples with Malaria, Cholera, poor maternal and infant mortality rates and certainly would do well without the added burden of an explosion of drug abuse- related ailments that would ensue following the decriminalization/legalization of drugs.
10. A trite and constant fact in addressing the problems of drug abuse in any jurisdiction is that preventive education and public enlightenment programs about the consequences of substance abuse are several times more cost effective than interdiction, treatment and rehabilitation strategies as tools for tackling the drug problem. WFAD is extremely worried, that despite the weak state of the economies of all West African countries (most of which rank amongst the 20 poorest countries in
the world by World Bank figures), there is a near total discountenance and non- mention of Prevention as a tool for addressing the drug problem in the Report produced by WACD.
In the light of the foregoing, WFAD finds it extremely difficult to associate any altruistic motives concerning the quest for drug decriminalization/legalization being advanced by The Report released by WACD.
WFAD would thus enjoin all the States in the West African sub-region to discount and decline the efforts at decriminalization/legalization of drugs.
Eze Eluchie,President, African Center for Health Law and Development, Nigeria, Board Member of WFAD
Rogers Kasirye,Executive Director, Uganda Youth Development Link, Uganda, Board Member of WFAD