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Cablegate: Drug Trafficking in Ethiopia

VZCZCXRO5378
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHDS #2499/01 2940537
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 210537Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6555
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEPADJ/CJTF HOA PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ADDIS ABABA 002499

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E, INL, INR
PASS TO ADICT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR ASEC ET
SUBJECT: DRUG TRAFFICKING IN ETHIOPIA

REF: STATE 105731

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Ethiopia has become increasingly popular as
a transit point along narco-trafficking routes as a result of
convenient air service, limited law enforcement, and minimal
criminal penalties. Heroin is the most commonly trafficked
substance, followed by cannabis and cocaine. Most
international traffickers convicted in 2009 were of East
African origin; nearly half were Tanzanian citizens.
Cannabis has traditionally been grown in Ethiopia and is
commonly sent via the postal service to the UK and, to a
lesser extent, other countries. Ethiopia has not experienced
significant security or public health problems to date as a
result of increased narco-trafficking, but police are wary of
this growing phenomenon. Communication between post and law
enforcement authorities is good, but cooperative programming
is limited. End summary.

2. (SBU) According to Tsegaye Gebrehiwot, Counter Narcotics
Chief at the Ethiopian Federal Police Commission,
international narco-trafficking has become an increasingly
serious problem in Ethiopia over the past two years. While
Ethiopia is not a significant source or destination country
for illegal drugs, the combination of convenient and
affordable air service on Ethiopian Airlines, limited police
capacity to combat narco-trafficking, and minimal prison
sentences for convicted drug traffickers have led many
traffickers to utilize Addis Ababa as a transit point.
Tsegaye told PolOff that in his career as a law enforcement
officer, Ethiopia had not experienced anywhere near the
volume of narco-trafficking that it is currently
experiencing. He attributed the increase primarily to
improved pan-African air service on Ethiopian Airlines, and
noted that the Government of Ethiopia's (GoE) failure to
improve drug enforcement efforts and update its criminal code
(which provides for less than two years prison time for most
narcotics convictions) had allowed the problem to grow
unchecked.

3. (SBU) Tsegaye noted that his unit has stepped up drug
enforcement operations at Bole International Airport in Addis
Ababa, and provided statistics on drug seizures for 2009.
Since January, police have arrested 16 narco-traffickers
(seven Tanzanian, two each from Uganda, South African, and
the UK, and one each from Ethiopia, Belgium, and Guinea). Of
these seizures, the most commonly trafficked substance was
heroin (9 cases), followed by cannabis (4 cases) and cocaine
(2 cases). In one case where the substance was not
identified, post's RSO and LEGATT are working to provide
technical assistance to the Ethiopian authorities. Tanzania,
India, and UAE were most commonly identified as source or
destination countries. Ethiopia was a source country in four
cases, three of which involved the trafficking of
locally-grown cannabis to Europe. Specific trafficking
routes for each case are noted below:

Origin Destination
------ -----------
Tanzania China
China Tanzania
UAE Tanzania
DRC Belgium
India Uganda
UAE Tanzania
South Africa Thailand
India DRC
UAE Rwanda
Ethiopia UK
UAE Tanzania
India DRC
Ethiopia Germany
Ethiopia UK
India Kenya
China, India, Ethiopia Mali, Thailand


4. (SBU) Drug production within Ethiopia is primarily
confined to cannabis grown around the Rastafarian community
at Shashemene. While some cannabis is trafficked by air, the
vast majority is sent through the Ethiopian postal service.
Tsegaye noted that his unit had also stepped up enforcement
efforts in conjunction with the postal service, and provided
specific data on 44 seizures of cannabis from mailed
packages. Of these, 37 were mailed to the UK. According to
the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) office in

ADDIS ABAB 00002499 002 OF 002


Cairo, which covers Ethiopia, there is also limited poppy
production in Ethiopia.

5. (SBU) Communication between post and DEA regional office
and Ethiopian law enforcement authorities concerning
narco-trafficking is good, and the USG has provided various
forms of counter narcotics assistance to the GoE in the past.
Currently, cooperative activities are limited to DEA
training. Ethiopia did not receive INL funding in FY 2009,
but is scheduled to receive funding in FY 2010.

6. (SBU) Tsegaye reported that while some narco-traffickers
may have established safe houses in Addis Ababa, the use of
Ethiopia as a transit hub has not had a great impact on
security. However, he expressed a growing wariness that if
left unchecked, Ethiopia's reputation as a safe haven for
traffickers could have a severe impact on security in Addis
Ababa and at Bole International Airport. At present, post
has not observed any impact on security, good governance, or
public health as a result of this new trafficking pattern.
MEECE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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