West Africa’s drug problem is spreading beyond the borders of Guinea-Bissau, which I wrote about a few months back. The UN has warned that her nextdoor neighbour, Guinea, is vulnerable too, although in last month’s mutiny by soldiers all the records of the country’s counter-narcotics unit were, rather suspiciously, destroyed. And in Guinea’s nextdoor neighbour, Sierra Leone, police have just arrested eight “white people with queer accents” who were attempting to smuggle 600 kilos of cocaine into Lungi airport in a plane disguised with a Red Cross logo. Sierra Leone’s clued up police spokesman has worked out from their accents that they might be South Americans. Not surprisingly in the light of the destroyed narcotics records in Guinea, a number of police and airport staff were also arrested, including the chief of airport police and the airport manager. The haul was worth 33 million Euros, and it wouldn’t take a very large share of that to persuade a few poor Sierra Leoneans to pull some strings and smooth your path into the country.
Guinea-Bissau, Guinea and Sierra Leone are all fragile states which, like tottering companies, are vulnerable either to complete collapse or to takeover. Guinea-Bissau is in the process of being taken over by the drug cartels – the trouble is, unlike in business where being bought up can sometimes calm the waters, in the world of the resource curse takeover and complete collapse often go hand in hand.