Thompson Appointed to Commission Addressing Drug Trafficking in West Africa

photo of Bankole Thompson

Dr. Bankole Thompson, a professor emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University who still teaches part time in the College of Justice & Safety, has been invited by the Kofi Annan Foundation to serve on a commission formed to address drug trafficking and drug abuse in West Africa.

Thompson, a native of Sierra Leone and former judge of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international war crimes tribunal, will serve on the Commission on the Impact of Drug Trafficking, Governance, Security and Development in West Africa. The Commission will hold its first meeting in early 2013 and meet periodically thereafter.

“The rapid spread of drug trafficking and increased drug consumption in West Africa is a serious and growing concern,” Annan wrote in a letter addressed to Thompson. “Indeed, recent developments in the Sahel region, which suggest an insidious convergence of trafficking, arms trading, organized crime and extremism, have reinforced this apprehension. Left unchecked, these trends in trafficking, consumption and criminal activity could put in jeopardy the democratic and development progress achieved in West Africa over the last decade.

“Mobilizing high-level political commitment is crucial if we are to reduce the vulnerability of the region’s institutions to drug trafficking and make the policy changes needed to better prevent and treat drug dependency in a humane and effective manner,” Annan continued. “To that end, the Commission will be expected to initiate a public campaign to raise awareness and to enhance the political priority accorded to drug trafficking and consumption.”

Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo will chair the Commission.

Thompson said that recent research clearly shows that the “transshipment of illicit narcotics from Latin American through West Africa to Europe and North America has increased significantly and that organized crime syndicates are now operating in West Africa to ensure safe passage of their drug cargos through the sub-region.

At the same time, drug consumption in the sub-region, both of locally produced products and trafficked imports, notably cocaine, has increased substantially. Thompson cited a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report which noted that the drug trade through West Africa alone is now worth $800 million a year.

“This is very important work,” Thompson added, “because these developments pose a serious threat to the peace and stability of West Africa, which is emerging from decades of violent strife.”           

The roles and responsibilities of the Commission have been prepared in close consultation with Economic Community of West African States, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations Office for West Africa, the African Union, and other non-governmental organizations that share the concern.

Last year, Thompson received the highest possible honor from the Sierra Leone Institute of International Law when he and four other renowned academicians and practitioners of international law were honored as Fellows of the Institute.

Thompson joined the EKU faculty in 1995 and formerly served as dean of graduate studies.

Annan served two terms as Secretary General of the United Nations, 1997-2006, and created the Foundation that bears his name in 2007. Annan and the United Nations were joint recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize.

Published on December 13, 2012