Where Governance Goes to Die

West Africa has never been a bastion of democracy, but as the drug trade remains ever lucrative, even the government of Guinea-Bissau appears to be cashing in on narcotics—at the peril of its people.

01 August 2010
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The past three years have seen a staggering increase in drug trafficking in particular, making West Africa the continent’s narcotics hub. International law enforcement officials say the profits are used to fund terrorist activities worldwide.

The steady stream of drugs pools in the slums of Guinea-Bissau, where crack-fuelled prostitution is driving a new AIDS epidemic in a region where even basic health care is beyond the reach of many; and where young people turning to the drug trade for jobs become unwitting foot soldiers of organised crime.

A series of drug-related political assassinations has brought Guinea-Bissau’s leaders’ ability to govern into question. The United States has said it cannot help the country with reforms until all suspected drug traffickers are purged from government. Meanwhile, a country with one of the lowest GDPs in the world carries on, as Africa’s first narco-state.

Marco Vernaschi is an award-winning photojournalist currently based in Buenos Aires. His latest accolade was the PGB Photo Award 2010 for Best Picture of the Year.

Keywords: democracy Prostitution West Africa Marco Vernaschi narcotics Guinea-B crack