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Cablegate: Drugs Through Niger? Local Views On Narcotics

VZCZCXRO1250
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0691/01 1411142
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211142Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3489
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 3366
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NIAMEY 000691

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT. FOR DS/IP/AF, DS/DSS/ITA;
AMCONSUL LAGOS FOR DEA, GAYE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SNAR KCRM NG
SUBJECT: DRUGS THROUGH NIGER? LOCAL VIEWS ON NARCOTICS
ROUTES

REF: A. HARKENRIDER - GAYE E-MAIL EXCHANGE OF 4/19/07
B. KORAN - GAYE E-MAIL OF 5/2/07
C. NIAMEY 616

NIAMEY 00000691 001.2 OF 002


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) On May 7, Poloff met with officials in the Nigerien
border town of Birni N'Konni, ninety kilometers north of
Sokoto, Nigeria. The local Prefect, chief judge, and Procurer
(prosecutor) described drug seizures and their perceptions of
a drug trafficking route through the town and through Niger
generally. A May 14 meeting with the police chief of another
Nigerien border town - Maradi - built on this story. The
chief posited two additional trafficking routes: via Niger's
western neighbors, and across Niger's sparsely-populated
eastern desert region. In light of two recent drug seizures
involving Nigeriens (Refs A B), and GON allegations that drug
traffickers are responsible for violence in the country's
nomadic north (Reftel C), local perceptions of drug
trafficking corridors merit further investigation. END SUMMARY

------------------------
HARDLY A WEEK GOES BY...
------------------------

2. (SBU) Niger in microcosm, Birni N'Konni thrives on and
suffers from its proximity to Nigeria. While the sale of
illicit Nigerian gasoline, for example, has long plagued
legitimate gas stations and posed a public fire hazard,
Emboffs heard about a new preoccupation during our recent
trip to Konni. The Prefect of Birni N'Konni Department,
Mamane Lamine Amani, claimed that "hardly a week goes by when
we don't seize some marijuana or amphetamines" coming across
the border. He also noted that local police had seized some
illegal arms, though he was unable to offer details. The
President of the Konni Tribunal, Hamza Assoumana Bayere, had
more information. He claimed that there is significant drug
trafficking through Konni. For the last two years, local
police have seized marijuana and amphetamines on a regular
basis.

3. (SBU) Konni's Procurer, Ibrahim Oumarou, offered a broader
perspective on trafficking. He noted that, while large
quantities of marijuana and amphetamines transit Konni on
their way to the Mahgreb and Europe, most seizures take place
in the northern Nigerien cities of Tahoua or Agadez. Yet, in
each instance, GON authorities have discovered that the drugs
and their Nigerian traffickers have passed through Konni.
Judge Bayere reinforced the procurer's argument. He has
recently shifted to Konni from Gaya, a town on the Niger /
Benin / Nigeria border. The judge noted that he saw little
evidence of drug trafficking in Gaya, but much in Konni.
Poloff's subsequent meetings with GON officials in Zinder,
Maradi, and Magaria produced no evidence of drug trafficking
via those border towns. It therefore seems that drug
traffickers from Nigeria favor the Sokoto - Konni - Tahoua -
Agadez route over other alternatives.

---------------------------------------------
MORE FROM MARADI: SENIOR GON POLICEMAN OFFERS
PERSPECTIVE ON ROUTES, SOURCES, AND SMUGGLERS
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) None of our interlocutors in Konni would hazard a
guess as to the ultimate source of the drugs passing through
town. The Director of the National Police in Maradi, however,
had much to say in response to this question. Director Boube
Souley, previously assigned to the National Police Detective
Branch and the UN Mission in DRC, claimed that West African
drug trafficking follows a well-beaten path from Guinea,
(where he speculated that drugs may arrive from Latin America
via the port), through Cote D'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Niger
or Mali. He went so far as to describe Burkina Faso as a
"reservoir" of illicit drugs. He claimed that there was
considerable demand for marijuana and amphetamines in Libya,
which, along with Europe, provided demand for the
trans-Saharan trade. In addition to the more westernly route,
Souley claimed that ethnic Arabs from Chad and Niger
trafficked drugs to Libya through the far-eastern Nigerien
towns of N'Guigmi, Bilma, and Dirkou. In general, he noted
that traffickers take advantage of corruption and political
instability in Guinea and Cote D'Ivoire, and Niger and Mali's
poorly policed and thinly populated desert regions to move
their wares.

NIAMEY 00000691 002.2 OF 002

--------------------------------------------
FALLOUT: KONNI'S (STILL) MODEST DRUG CULTURE
--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Drug trafficking through Niger has its local
effects. While Nigeriens see high profile seizures like those
in Tahoua and Agadez as being too large for local
consumption, Judge Bayere's Konni docket is full of small
possession and sale cases. A culture of drug use has grown in
Konni of late, with both rural and urban youth leading the
trend. Penalties for possession or consumption range from
fifteen days to six month in jail; those for sale or
trafficking from five to ten years. Yet, the judge noted that
one can purchase a tea-bag size packet of marijuana (the
typical quantity sold in Niger) in Nigeria for fifteen CFA
and re-sell it in Niger for fifty CFA - powerful incentive
for unemployed local youth. (Note: approximately 500 CFA = 1
$US End note.) Procurer Oumarou argued that penalties for
personal use or possession were neither harsh enough nor
implemented with sufficient rigor. While Konni's cops seize
one to three kilos of marijuana every so often, narcotics are
still easy enough to find. Judge Bayere noted that the square
in front of a prominent mosque has turned into a popular drug
and alcohol sale point. Procurer Oumarou was concerned that
drug and alcohol abuse was exacerbating age-old conflicts
between farmers and herders and contributing to small crimes.

6. (SBU) COMMENT: This was Emboffs' first investigation of
drug trafficking in Niger and it appears Nigerien officials
are willing to speak candidly about the issue and welcome
international intervention - a tendency apparent at the top
of the GON as well as at the working level. President
Tandja's call for the UN Office of Drugs and Crime to study
the problem and recommend solutions (Reftel C) suggests that
the GON is beginning to tackle an issue that has disquieting
linkages to conflict in the north and a culture of youth
unemployment and alienation in the south. END COMMENT

7. (U) Tripoli, minimize considered.
ALLEN

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