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Joint ECOWAS-Interpol drugs operation results in arrests, large seizures

Aug 9, 2012, 9:07 AM

Law enforcement officers from agencies responsible for drug investigations in three ECOWAS countries have completed a week-long capacity building training-cum-operational activities in Benin, Togo and Ghana, during which some 74 drug traffickers were arrested while 7,894,275 kg quantities of different drugs were seized.

The combined events held between 23rd and 29th July 2012, involving three days training in Lomé, Togo, followed by three days of operations from 26th to 28th July in Togo, Benin and Ghana, and a day’s debriefing of the investigators, were funded by ECOWAS, with INTERPOL trainers and ECOWAS representatives participating as observers.

The operation, code-named “ATAKORA”, was launched with particular focus on drug trafficking at airports, sea ports and land borders in the three countries by engaging 36 investigators and law enforcements officers in the respective countries.

The breakdown of the seizures showed that Benin accounted for 376,675 kg of drugs, Ghana 24 kg and Togo 7,493,600 kg.

The operation was carried out within the framework of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on Drugs and INTERPOL’s action in support of member countries from the African region, aimed at detecting and dismantling criminal organized networks using West Africa to traffic cocaine, heroin, cannabis and psychotropic substances.

Meanwhile, in a separate but related development, the ECOWAS Commission and the Africa Unite Campaign are rallying ECOWAS member states to help end violence against women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

To this end, the 5th Regional Committee Meeting of Africa Unite held at the ECOWAS Commission’s Abuja headquarters recently agreed on the joint implementation of Africa Unite’s communication strategy by the two organizations.

Using the strategy, Africa Unite and partners are expected to shed more light on violence against women and girls, and also increase public awareness and social mobilization against the phenomenon.

The campaign will help mobilize support for African governments to fulfill their commitments to end violence against women and girls as well as empower women and their communities to stop violence by demanding accountability.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Adrienne Diop, Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, reaffirmed ECOWAS’ commitment to the campaign, with Africa Unite and the UN Women as allies.

Similarly, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, noted that women were always vulnerable during conflicts in the region.

Ms Jennet Kem, a representative of Africa Unite, the regional component of the UN campaign to end violence against women and girls, said the group would continue to adopt and enforce national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls.

The group argues that violence prevents women from enjoying human rights and fundamental freedoms such as the right to life and security of person to attain the highest standards of physical and mental health, education, work and housing, and to participate in public life.

Africa Unite is an inter-agency initiative that groups some 14 UN organizations in support of African countries to undertake coordinated, substantial and sustained actions to eliminate violence against women and girls.

The 5th regional committee meeting was also attended by representatives of U.N Women, the UN Economic Commission for Africa, the Swedish Ambassador in Nigeria and officials of ECOWAS Commission officials.