Thursday, 16 December 2010

Ghana: President Mills fears drug trafficking among staff

A US cable released by WikiLeaks has revealed that Ghana's President John Atta Mills is concerned that elements of his administration are compromised by drug trafficking. In a bid to eliminate his concerns, Mills requested airport drug screening checks for his personal entourage.

The cable in question stated that Mills “made a point of submitting his luggage to a search and required his entire entourage to do the same.” West Africa has become a key transit stop for smuggling cocaine from Latin America into Europe. When Mills took up office in January 2009, he pledged to tackle the problem which has become increasingly paramount.

According to a cable from June 2009, Mills told the US ambassador to Ghana, Donald Teitelbaum, that he knew that "elements of his government are already compromised and that officials at the airport tipped off drug traffickers about operations there".

Several months later a UK customs official, Roland O'Hagan, told US diplomats that Ghana's president wanted his own entourage screened before leaving the country. O'Hagan added that the President wanted his staff to be “checked in the privacy of his suite to avoid any surprises if they are caught carrying drugs.”

The UN drugs agency estimated that around 60 tonnes of cocaine is smuggled through West Africa every year. According to the same cable from June 2009, “President Mills has stated that he is resolute in stopping people from using Ghana as a narcotics transit corridor and will vigorously fight for the total eradication of hard drugs in the country. So far, he has shown a good faith effort.”

Sources: BBC News, Guardian

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

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