Gambia’s president said he would rather die than let his country become a haven for drug traffickers, many of whom have infiltrated other parts of coastal West Africa.
“I have zero tolerance for criminals. I have double-zero tolerance for drugs,” President Yahya Jammeh said on state television. “The country, over my dead body, will become a narcotics state.”
Drug trafficking is a growing problem in the region suffering from loose government oversight, and United Nations officials believe the zone is being used as a trans-shipment point for Latin American cocaine headed for Europe.
Gambia authorities have conducted a wave of high-profile arrests over the past two weeks including the detention of a former fisheries minister, the head of the navy, and a top police official.
While government officials have declined to comment on the reason for the arrests, security sources told Reuters yesterday they may be linked to the drugs trade.
Jammeh warned high-ranking officials in his administration not to get involved in smuggling.
“Wherever you have drugs, you have corruption, violence, and a total state of anarchy, which is unacceptable,” he said.
Gambia, which extends along the river of the same name and is sandwiched between northern and southern Senegal, has been a rare example of stability in West Africa.
Jammeh came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994 and has waved off criticism regarding human rights abuses.
Pic: Seized cocaine