Drug smugglers threaten to destroy democracy in Ghana

The Times of London
Accra, Ghana

Ghanaians go to the polls tomorrow to vote in a presidential run-off but many fear that the amount of cocaine trafficked through the country threatens to overshadow the result and the country’s democracy.

Ghana is said to be the staging post of the cocaine route from South American coca growers to European consumers. Drug enforcement officials estimate that as much as £1.3 billion of cocaine is trafficked through West Africa each year, roughly a quarter of all the cocaine imported into Europe, and much of it destined for Britain.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime talks of the region as being “under attack” and facing “a crisis of epic proportions”.

Last year two British teenage girls were arrested in Ghana for attempting to smuggle £300,000 of cocaine on to a flight from the capital, Accra, to London.

“The greatest threat to Ghana’s democracy is from the drugs trade,” said Kwesi Aning, a crime expert at the Kofi Annan International Peace-keeping Training Centre in Accra. “It would be naive to suppose that in a country that is a hub for cocaine trafficking in the region some of that money does not trickle down into politics, just like it trickles down into policing, customs and the judiciary.”

He cited one example: Eric Amoateng, a member of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), who was jailed last year in the United States for trying to smuggle £4 million of heroin. “People are raising some very tough questions about how this little man from a very small town, who was a school teacher and totally broke, even won the party primaries,” he said.

Opposition activists accuse the NPP of using cocaine money to fund its campaign, allegations denied by the party’s presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who has promised to crack down on traffickers.

“The cocaine threat highlights institutional weaknesses,” said Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development. “The top leadership of the police has been implicated in the drugs trade yet investigations are inconclusive and there is failure to bring people to book.”

Up to 12.4 million people are expected to vote in the presidential run-off, with Mr Akufo-Addo up against Professor John Evans Atta Mills, of the National Democratic Convention. Neither passed the 50 per cent threshold in the general election on December 7.

Significantly, given the recent electoral strife in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria, the vote in Ghana was lauded by international observers as peaceful, free and fair.

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/africa/article2594037.ece