The recent attack on UN peacekeepers in northern Mali is the latest in a series of attacks on soldiers and UN personnel this year, especially around the city of Gao.
Whilst the French and American military are deploying Special Forces units and regular troops to Mali to prevent an Islamist takeover, there is a different interpretation for these attacks- drugs.
In the early 2000s, Europe’s cocaine market was a quarter of the one in the United States. By 2015, drug surveillance agencies have confirmed that the two markets were the same size and flooded with 350 tons a year. Where is the cocaine in Europe coming from?
In November 2009, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime found an old Boeing 727 crashed in the desert not far from Gao. Locals in the area have confirmed that several planeloads from Venezuela arrive each month. The cargo is cocaine, which is loaded onto 4×4 vehicles for shipment northwards across the desert. The convoys are driven by young men who spend three days ferrying the cargo to Algeria and along the north African coast. These men earn $500.00 per trip.
The cocaine is then loaded onto boats crammed with migrants fleeing the failed states of Syria and Iraq and headed to Europe.
Is South American cocaine fuelling the European migrant crisis? It is certainly contributing to the criminalisation of Mali and other West African states. The drug trade has increased corruption, introduced weapons and provided easy money for those willing to participate . It has created a hostile environment for many companies o want to exploit the Sahel’s valuable natural resources.

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