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Africa: Liberia Institutes Draconian New Drug Sentences

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #604)
Politics & Advocacy

The West African nation of Liberia, still struggling to emerge from years of bloody civil war, is now turning its attention to the war on drugs. Voice of America reported Wednesday that Liberian lawmakers have approved tough new anti-drug measures aimed not only at South American and Nigerian drug traffickers, but also at the country's own marijuana farmers.

Under the old law, drug trafficking offenses typically earned between five and 10 years in prison, but now the minimum sentence has quintupled. "If you are arrested and sent to court and convicted, you could be sentenced to jail for not less than 25 years and not more than 60 years," James Jelah, head of the Liberian DEA, told VOA.

Under the new law, drug offenders will no longer be eligible for bail while awaiting trial. Police and prosecutors have also been granted new asset forfeiture powers.

The hard line comes as Liberia and other weak West African nations grapple with cocaine trafficking. The poorly policed countries provide an enticing stopover point for South American loads on their way to the European market.

But like neighboring countries, Liberia also has a substantial -- and militant -- marijuana farming population. "The DEA is trying to uproot the marijuana farms," Jelah said. "And as a result, they were attacked by the townspeople. They put a blockade. They attacked them. Some shot single-barrel guns in the air. People came with machetes and sticks and they started beating up the DEA men. These guys had to jump in the bush."

In a country with 80% unemployment, marijuana production is a lucrative economic activity. So is the retail drug trade. One young Liberian told VOA the drug trade wasn't going away no matter what the government did.

"I sell it to foreigners, and I also sell it to Liberians," he said. "This is a money-making business. I do not care how much the government can do, this is our business. This is how we survive. So we cannot just do without drugs."

But the Liberian government is reading from the US drug war playbook.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Financial independence for working class people weakens foriegn control over a country's economy. Liberia's dictators were planted by US and European governments to stop that from happening, and the war on drugs is central to the western elites war against working class independence.

Fri, 10/16/2009 - 4:48pm Permalink
moon hawk-watches (not verified)

... the solution to Liberia's, and other nation's woes, is as simple as the solution to the entire question of the fiscal power of narcoterrorists: LEGALIZATION!
... as alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s provided massive profits, huge arsenals, and the ability to own entire governments, to those who provided the liquor so much desired by ordinary Americans, so the Drug War of the last 40 years have provided the same benefits to those who provide the cocaine and other "party favors" so much desired by the wealthy in America, Europe, Africa and Asia...
... remove the obscene profits of contraband and one removes the power of the providers of contraband substances.
... will we never learn that prohibition only empowers Organized Crime... and it's twin, Fascism?
... perhaps this one issue IS important enough to be a valid "litmus test" for potential office holders in the true democracies around the world.

Sat, 10/17/2009 - 2:52am Permalink

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