Rumors of cocaine money taint Ghana vote
The West African nation's status as a drug-trafficking hub has led to allegations of political corruption ahead of Sunday's presidential vote.
– As Ghanaians prepare to go to the polls this weekend to choose a new president, there are concerns that the enormous and growing quantities of cocaine trafficked through the country pose a threat to one of Africa's rare success stories.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The sweltering, coastal West African state has, since the 1990s, been an oasis of stability in a notoriously volatile region. While its neighbors suffered civil wars and unrest, Ghana replaced military rule with multiparty democracy, and its economy – based largely on the export of gold and cocoa – has been growing steadily in recent years, at around 6 percent annually.
Ghana might be among the best-governed states in West Africa, but according to a recent United Nations report, it's also one of the two leading shipping points for drugs trafficked between South America and Europe (the other is Guinea-Bissau). International drug enforcement officials estimate that as much as $2 billion worth of cocaine is trafficked via West Africa each year, which represents roughly a quarter of all the cocaine imported into Europe.
Officials at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime talk of West Africa as being "under attack" and facing "a crisis of epic proportions."
The drug trade is international, but analysts warn that the impact is local. "The greatest threat to Ghana's democracy is from the drugs trade," says Kwesi Aning, a crime expert at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana's capital, 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 adds.
All of these institutions – already weak in the developing nations of West Africa – have been undermined by the drugs trade and the vast sums of money that come with it.
"The cocaine threat highlights institutional weaknesses," explains Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development. "The top leadership of the police has been implicated in ... the drug trade, yet investigations are inconclusive and there is failure to bring people to book."
Observers point to the case of the MV Benjamin, a ship carrying two tons of cocaine, almost all of which simply disappeared in 2006. The 30 kilograms that were seized later vanished from a locked storage room at police headquarters, yet no officials have been prosecuted.
Alleged traffickers frequently jump bail or their cases collapse due to lack of evidence, even when they are caught red-handed.