Time for Africa to get tough on drugs

Posted on June 28, 2013 11:06 am

Over the last two decades, drug abuse in Africa has been growing at an alarming rate with corrupt officials taking little or no action to stem the flow of illicit drugs, especially to the continent’s youthful population. Sub Saharan Africa has an estimated 50 million drug addicts today compared to just 2 million in 1990. I am on of those who believe drug dealers and, indeed, drug users are criminals who belong to jail. Most countries in Africa have unduly stringent policies against drug crime but they are not stringent enough to deter the criminals currently doing that illicit business with impunity. The reality is that African societies have failed and if nothing is done soon, various African countries are facing chronic drug addiction crisis. Statistics released earlier this year showed an increase in the number of drug users across the continent, amid easier access to narcotics, much of which is shipped to the continent from Latin America and Asia.

Last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said drug use in Africa had reached “emergency proportions,” fueled in large part by the prevalence of cannabis sativa commonly known as marijuana as the drug of choice for majority of drug users in sub Saharan Africa. It is estimated that about 52% of the bhang is grown locally. African Union has in the past tried to address this menace by urging the union member states police and drug authorities to tackle youth unemployment that is largely blamed on increased drug abuse. However, countries like South Africa, well considered to be the safe haven for drug dealers, a different approach to dealing with drug offenders has yet to yield results. Recently, South African President Jacob Zuma noted that there is a need to differentiate between drug users and drug dealers and he promised to get tougher with severe punishment to drug dealers. In Africa, both drug dealers and drug users are locked behind bars and continent’s prisons are known for notoriety in drug use and therefore the continent’s approach to the problem need to be revised.

Former Australian premier John Howard once remarked that it is not wise to place young drug users in the same environment as hardcore criminals in prison. Newly elected Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta was recently quoted as having called for drug users, especially first time offenders, to be placed in rehabilitation centers where they can be weaned off their deadly habit. This, according to Kenyatta would give them a fighting chance to reform their lives and save their future. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda once said that drug dealers, however rich or big, the full force of the law must be applied. In my opinion, me think the battle against drugs is a battle for the future of Africa and should not be take drug problem lightly. African countries have a serious problem with drugs because narcotic dealers are not punished severely enough. Multiple independent studies have confirmed that drugs circulate freely in prisons in African countries with the authorities always turning a blind eye to them in exchange of dough. That is a classic illustration of moral failure in African societies in drugs policies. If Africa wants to deal seriously with the drugs menace, countries would have to deal ruthlessly with drug peddlers.

Contador Harrison