U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Susan E. Rice today said transnational organized crime remains a threat in Africa.
In her remarks at a Security Council open debate on Peace and Security in Africa, Ms. Rice discussed impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region.
“Transnational organized crime is a scourge everywhere, but West Africa and the Sahel are plagued by a particularly insidious version.” -Ms. Rice
She notes criminal networks corrupt societies that face pressing developmental challenges in a region emerging from years of conflict.
She urges the Security Council to address the situation using a holistic approach, in tandem with the African Union, sub-regional organizations and other actors.
She states that governments in West Africa and the Sahel have made significant efforts to fight organized crime, through the Economic Community of West African States, the West Africa Coastal Initiative, and numerous other bilateral and sub-regional partnerships.
However, she highlighted that the dangers of transnational organized crime of continue to grow.
“West Africa and the Sahel face increasingly complex and sophisticated criminal activities, including terrorism, embezzlement of public funds, and the illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, oil, people and counterfeit goods, which threaten regional stability by inflaming conflicts and undermining development.” -Ms. Rice
She also undelrines that drug trafficking remains a principal threat as well in the region.
According to UNODC, the UN Office for West Africa, and reports provided to the Security Council, drug trafficking is increasingly intertwined with other forms of trafficking in the region.
UNODC also found that drug trafficking continues to be the most lucrative line of business for criminals.
She stresses that the United States continues to support the West Africa Coastal Initiative through UNODC in order to address border and corruption issues in an area of the world where an estimated $1 billion in cocaine is trafficked annually – a number more than twice the GDP of many West African nations.
She cites that criminals that conduct kidnap-for-ransom operations have substantially supported terrorist networks in the Sahel. She adds that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has demonstrated its ability to carry out criminal activities and attacks against soft targets across significant distances.
She notes that Illicit arms trafficking is another serious aspect of transnational crime in West Africa and the Sahel.
“Poorly secured stockpiles of conventional weapons and ordnance are a potential source for arms smugglers in the region.” -Ms. Rice
She reports that in October 2011, the United States completed a project in Guinea-Bissau that destroyed over 80 metric tons of obsolete military ordnance at the request of the host nation.A
“We encourage states to assist, where possible, governments in North and West Africa to destroy surplus, obsolete or poorly secured weapons and ammunition stockpiles. The Libyan crisis has introduced a new set of cross-border challenges.” -Ms. Rice
She emphasizes that the United States remains concerned about the risk of weapons, including man portable air defense systems or MANPADS, moving across borders.
The Secretary of State Clinton announced in Tripoli last October that the United States is providing $40 million to assist Libya in securing and recovering its weapons stockpiles.
Organized crime – especially drug trafficking – accounted for a quarter of deaths caused by firearms in the Americas, compared to only 5 per cent of homicides in Asia and Europe.