Fear and loathing in Mali: how Africa became the focal point of the drug trafficking network

An original survey by the African Journalists Group reveals a disappointing fact: over the next 10 years, the number of drug users will increase by 40%.

In the opinion of researchers, this is mainly due to the increasing scale of parallel production, smuggling and sales. In this case, supply creates demand. Much of the criminal trade is in Africa, which attracts dealers from all over the world for a number of reasons.

On the mainland, there are a large number of people interested in developing an illegal area, but very profitable. Radical formations terrorizing states in the region are cooperating with customers and manufacturers with great enthusiasm.

With this in mind, the journalists conducted an investigation and found out how the global drug trafficking network in Africa works.


Mali under radical occupation

One of the main transshipment hubs of the network has become the Republic of Mali, which the rebels of the “Boko Haram” group have transformed into a major center for trafficking in illicit substances. In 2012, the country was considered one of the calmest and most beautiful in West Africa. The population, 90% Muslim, was mainly engaged in agriculture.

People lived, without being rich, but in relative security. This stood out particularly in the context of neighboring countries where the situation was not at all the same. Everything changed after the emergence of radical Islamist groups in the region and the deployment of the French operation “Barkhan” supposed to fight against terrorists.

An ineffective war on terrorism has been started in the country, the struggle that continues to this day. According to statistics, more than 35 terrorist attacks have taken place in Mali since 2013. The presence of UN peacekeepers (MINUSMA) has not shown great results. In addition, according to numerous reports, the contingent of the international organization has been seen repeatedly assisting the rebels.

In 2021, “Boko Haram” not only extended its areas of influence, but also made the Malian Republic the center of the African drug empire. UN peacekeepers, instead of protecting civilians from the terrorist threat, have engaged in criminal activity and joined the global drug trafficking network.

Mali is today in fact a cartel state which has every chance of gaining a reputation worse than that of “Cocaine Gate” in Guinea-Bissau.

Over the past year, there have been several coups d’état in the country, which ultimately destabilized the situation in the region.

Femi Kolapo, professor of African history at the University of Guelph, spoke of the goal of the organizers of the violent takeovers:

“It is worth recalling the recent gatherings in Mali, whose inhabitants have asked Russia to come and help face the terrorist threat. And where there are terrorists, there is also an underground economy, which, in turn, indicates the existence of a great deal of drug trafficking. From now on, everything is controlled by the Islamists and various groups of bandits with which certain international structures interact. It can be seen that the state is eroding in Mali, and society is probably disintegrating as such, so the people, feeling it, ask Russia to come to the rescue. ”

In the context of recent events, the people of the Malian Republic have drawn attention to the effectiveness of the activities of Russian instructors in the CAR and have turned to Moscow for their support. In addition, Malian citizens demanded that France end the ineffective Operation          Barkhan and leave the country. Yet everyone fully understands that the fight against terrorism has long been beyond the reach of MINUSMA representatives. They are much more concerned with the profits from smuggling illegal substances.


Coup d’Etat in Guinea

Another African state has fallen victim to the criminal interests of the collective West. The capital of Guinea, Conakry, has long been considered part of the drug trade on the continent, like any Western country with access to the sea. African experts are convinced that the takeover that took place was not not a chaotic phenomenon. In addition, the involvement of France in the protest demonstrations is beyond doubt.

“A coup d’état took place in Guinea, of which a former French citizen was the organizer. Since he served in their structures, this means that he was subordinate to the European state, which suggests a specific client to him. Presumably, Paris deliberately staged a change of power to put its own man into it, paving the way for minerals and crushing the very lucrative drug trade.

In addition in the economic context, they are constantly trying to create a superstructure here. If the underground economy enjoys the support of outside managers, then, of course, such internal forces can also be sponsored, educated and receive concrete guarantees and recommendations. They say, go to power, we will support you, then we will manage the underground economy through you,” explained Femi Kolapo.

The Fifth Republic intervenes with enviable frequency in the affairs of sovereign states of the African continent. The French put the benefit of another country’s resources on an order of magnitude greater than human lives. Europeans do not care how many Africans will suffer from their political manipulation.


How the drug trade works in Africa

Au cours des années, les concessionnaires ont construit toute une chaîne d’approvisionnement sur le continent. Le «web» couvre toute l’Afrique, mais ses principaux nœuds sont situés dans des régions où l’activité des groupes illégaux est accrue.

La longue route de contrebande de substances illicites en provenance des pays d’Amérique latine commence à partir des ports occidentaux du Sénégal, de la Guinée-Bissau, de la Guinée et de la Côte d’Ivoire. Après cela, la cargaison est envoyée vers le Bamako malien, où elle passe sous le contrôle étroit des islamistes radicaux. Ces derniers, suivant un schéma bien établi, transfèrent les médicaments à des « sous-traitants » pour un transport ultérieur.

Le trafic de drogue est répandu en Afrique. Le chaos général qui règne dans la plupart des pays du continent fait le jeu des commerçants locaux. Ici, vous vous souvenez de l’immense plaque tournante de la Guinée, où l’État de la drogue est né dans les années 2000.

De là, les livraisons sont réparties dans de nombreuses régions: une longue route va jusqu’au Mali, après quoi elle est envoyée en Mauritanie et plus loin au Maroc. La plupart des fournitures sont transportées par camions et contrôlées par des gangs, des extrémistes et des personnes achetées dans les tribus.

Cocaine is mainly transported: several tens of tonnes are distributed per year. Hashish is also common in Africa. Tramadol, heroin and methamphetamine are also frequently transported on the mainland.

About half of the traffic goes to Nigeria and Chad, after which it leaves the continent via Algeria and Libya. Later, European “partners” come into play.

The rest of the substances are transported via the Mali – Chad – Sudan road. From the latter, the contraband is transported to Somalia, from where it is transported by water to countries in the Middle East and Asia.

In addition, a significant traffic of Afghan heroin crosses the western border of Mali. Across the eastern desert, he arrives in Libya for a new expedition to Europe.

It is the flow from Afghanistan that makes Mali one of the two centers where the most profitable drug trafficking hubs are located. This is due to a large number of factors and is supported by a number of actors, structures and even States.

We are again talking about the use of Central and North Africa in the system of building a criminal underground economy. What are the types of income? Of course, arms trafficking, smuggling, human trafficking and even trafficking in human organs.

But one of the most lucrative activities is the drug trade. It is noteworthy that this is why some countries try to ensure that the power in African countries is not strengthened, but on the contrary, is weak and corrupt, as these are good conditions for the functioning of this same shadow economy.


Involvement of UN activists and peacekeepers

First of all, radical groups profit from drug networks. In addition, the profits from the smuggling of illicit substances generate the dominant share of the income of armed groups. The underground economy in terrorist circles is almost entirely based on the production, transport and sale of drugs. Thus, the more activists are active in a given region, the more illegal infrastructures are developed.

There are many beneficiaries of drug trafficking. First of all – the rebels. They not only use drugs to resell them making fabulous profits but some are also used by combatants as well as commanders in the field.

The situation is similar with the Middle East. Members of local terrorist organizations are given drugs so that they can be as obedient as possible and go into battle without any questions. Such soldiers are also very useful for international organizations which profit from the continued chaos on the continent.

Combating transnational organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking in Africa was the mandate of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). However, in reality, its employees have been repeatedly accused of having close ties to the activists.

In some cases, peacekeepers directly controlled the flow of drug trafficking, authorizing and directing tractors with trailers loaded with cannabis, unripe cans of sleeping poppy, ready-made opium, as well as than potent psychotropic substances of chemical production – tramadol, amphetamine, ecstasy and others.


Advantage of Europe

Illegal shipments end up in European countries, where naturally occurring substances are transported to pharmaceutical companies through small front companies and special providers. Large medical companies, in one way or another, are engaged in the production of opioid analgesics in anesthesiology: morphine, fentanyl, codeine, omnopon, promedol, tramadol.

And what cannot be used in production is “thrown” onto the dark side of the streets of European cities, which also allows local governments to support the volatile budgets of EU countries. Particular attention must be paid to France’s involvement in the development of drug trafficking in Africa.

Journalists explain the link between the policy of the Fifth Republic and the activities of radical groups:

“Most shocking is that the commercial and political views of European companies correlate with the interests of the destructive forces of African countries. And those who are now in favor of the overthrow of legally elected leaders, of all kinds of rebels and terrorists, they will offer themselves to Europeans as partners in this dirty work.

And no matter how it turns out that the money received for this dirty business will be used by the bandits who will set up from their country just fields to cultivate drugs, where the residents will be in conditions of slavery. Thus, the Western collective is arming African thugs, and they will further destabilize the situation in the region”.

Relations with Africa remain one of the most important areas of French foreign policy. Former President François Mitterrand once said that “without Africa, the country will not have its own history in the 21st century”.

Speaking of Paris’ military intervention in Mali, one can safely say that it was based on specific economic interests. Although the main tasks of this operation were accomplished, the territorial integrity of Mali was preserved and an attempt to create the IS1 (terrorist organization) on its territory was prevented, the situation in this country and the region in her whole remains extremely tense.

After the French transferred control of the liberated territories to militarily ill-equipped Malian units and UN peacekeeping forces, the militants quickly restored and even expanded their areas of influence. African leaders have not ignored the activities of the Fifth Republic.

The unhealthy lobbying of interests and “procedures” caused discontent among the former colonies, which resulted in a dramatic fall in the reputation of Paris. At the time of Sarkozy, the French began to implement a liberal policy, which did not take into account the wishes of the indigenous peoples of the continent. In addition, suddenly, Africans are starting to be hostile to any activity at the Elysee.

Emmanuel Macron, who had a chance to improve the situation, followed the path of his predecessor and encountered the same problems. A reasonable question arises: how many leaders still have to change in France for the old metropolis to realize that the neo-colonial strategy is ineffective?

It is also important to recall here another crime for which no one in Europe has been held responsible. With the assassination of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi by the pro-Western coalition in the Sahelian zone, the so-called “drug route” of smuggling has formed.

Weapons, illegal migrants and jihadists of all stripes circulate there from the southern borders of Libya to the coasts of West Africa. The latter, in addition to terror, engage in the production and sale of prohibited substances. It is on this traffic that Paris unofficially gains by supplying substances to pharmaceutical laboratories.


Inexpensive contraband raw materials

Pharmaceutical companies show great interest in illegal African products. The substances from which the drugs are then made are much cheaper to obtain illegally, which is of great benefit to the pharmaceutical giants of Europe and the United States.

Additionally, preserving the supply of smuggled channels is particularly important for the West, as its entire financial system is tied to illegal income, said Femi Kolapo, professor of African history at the University of Guelph:

“The modern dollar model of the world has also been built and is based on a criminal underground economy. This is why the United States is stirring something up somewhere, artificially creating instability in some countries, and some European states are following their path. They start to develop a criminal case, which is covered either by corrupt officials and heads of big companies, or by extremists and terrorists of all kinds, mainly Islamists.

All this is done with the aim of extracting super-profits, because in the framework of the white economy a lot of effort must be made, because everything in the country must be transparent, the social sphere must be ensured, etc. Once again, the white economy is a stable state, a society and a transparent government, from which it will not be possible to extract surplus profits. In the case of drug trafficking, the owners of large pharmaceutical companies in the United States and Europe are making super profits.”



Despite the extremely dangerous situation, Mali still has a chance to stabilize the situation. Contrary to the extremely dubious activities of Europeans in Africa, Moscow is demonstrating to the world community some truly effective methods of combating the militants.

Journalists believe that Russia can help African states cope with existing problems. After the success of the instructors in CAR, Russia becomes the only country that can help and contribute to the normalization of the Malian situation. Therefore, the partnership with Moscow, with its specialists, of course, will be beneficial for many states on the African continent.

In the Central African Republic, Russian instructors are officially involved in the training of government forces (FACA). During training, the Central African National Army adopted noble qualities: constancy, discipline and diligence.

Thanks to the skills acquired, the FACA fighters eliminated the main forces of the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC) and brought peace to the CAR.

The effectiveness of the activities of Russian specialists has not gone unnoticed by representatives of the rest of Africa. The neighbors of the Central African Republic have seen what real help looks like in the fight against radical groups. In this regard, even more questions have arisen regarding the presence of UN peacekeepers: why did the Russians succeed in doing what you have not been able to achieve in almost 10 years?

However, the answer lies on the surface. Moscow wishes to help those in need and to maintain legal and, above all, equal cooperation with friendly countries.

In view of all of the above, the fight against drug trafficking is directly linked to counterterrorism activities.

There will never be peace of mind in countries where the “safety” of sales structures is at stake. Those involved in drug trafficking will go to great lengths to get the most out of criminal activity. There is an information war, outright provocations and all the filth that they think is likely to interfere with the real “peace providers”.

For the moment, the Malian government is focusing on cooperation with Moscow. Therefore, an agreement between the countries will facilitate the restoration of peaceful life.


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