By Cecil Mensah
The Commissioner of the West African Commission on Drugs (WACD), has called on member countries to demystify their policies on the death penalties handed to drug users in some part of the sub-region.
Madam Christiana Kafanda, the Commissioner of WACD, made this comment at the regional consultation meeting on drugs policy in the West Africa sub-region in Accra.
The conference was organized by the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI) on the theme: ‘The Road to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problems”.
The meeting attracted 40 participants from relevant sectors, including Ministries of Health, Interior, Justice, Foreign Affairs and the inter-Ministerial Committee on Drug Control, National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies, Police and National Human Rights Institutions.
According to her, UNGASS will not bring the radical change in the drug policy that those who called for it wanted may beagainst the death penalty for drug offenders.
She was hopeful the support for harm reduction and drug policy based on public health, human rights, peace and development.
She explained that drug trafficking is an international issue and countries of West Africa should not be left alone to bear the full burden of the struggle against criminal organizations that are often better equipped than the institution fighting them.
The international community must share the burden created by drug trafficking through West Africa, arriving from South America and Asia in transit to Europe and North America She noted.
Nations whose citizens consume large quantities of illicit drugs must play their part and seek humane ways to reduce demand for those drugs and they must play their part and seek humane ways to reduce demand for these drugs she added.
She stressed that Africans need to urge their counterparts not to only consider what happens within their borders but consider the countries that bear the brunt and the cost in human lives.
“For many of our countries the system does not work and we need international reforms to deal with it. We hope to be able to count on the solidarity of others and willingness to listen to the problems we face and thereby reach an agreement that we all can live with’’ she said.
According to her, what happened at UNGASS in 2001 on HIV/ AIDS under the leadership of Kofi Annan, and Africa as the most affected continent similarly recognized the violence related to drug trafficking in the West African sub- region.
Addressing the participants at the meeting in Accra, Nana Afadzinu, Executive Director of WASCI said the meeting was to shape discourse among key stakeholders in the sub-region from relevant public sector institutions who engage in drug policy formulation and implementation.
She said the meeting was to provide an opportunity for government officials and national law enforcement agencies to discuss drug policy issues and necessary reforms identified at the national –level meetings.
And also interrogate the measures put in place at regional and national levels to dealt with drug production, use, trafficking and organize crime.
She was against the way and manner drug users are dealt with as traffickers, drug users with a roll of Marijuana must not treated as those involved in selling it.
She said local consumption of drugs has increased substantially and it is important Africans join hands in the fight against drugs in the Sub-region.
Madam Olubusayo Akinola, Head of Drug Demand Reduction at the Economic Committee of West African States (ECOWAS) said the theme and objectives of the meeting reflect reforms in the drug abuse situation in the sub-region.