Law enforcement officials from seven West African countries met in Sierra Leone last month to discuss increasing anti-corruption efforts at a conference organized by the U.S. State Department and U.S. Justice Department under the auspices of the West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative (WACSI). In an email interview, Boubacar N'Diaye, an associate professor of black studies and political science at the College of Wooster, discussed the WASCI.
WPR: What is driving the West Africa Cooperative Security Initiative, and which U.S. government agencies are involved?
Boubacar N'Diaye: The driving force behind the WACSI is the United States’ desire to curtail drug trafficking in West Africa and enlist the collaboration and support of West African states, particularly the coastal states, to further U.S. goals of combating transnational organized crime. In recent years, and for a variety of reasons, most West African states have attracted drug traffickers from the Americas. Their weak institutions and extremely low capabilities in law enforcement and fighting major crime have a lot to do with it. Many West African states have experienced an exponential increase in drug transportation, storage and even manufacturing activities. Some have even become major hubs for drug trafficking toward Europe. This has the potential for dire consequences: large-scale corruption of law enforcement and security agencies, judicial systems and political systems, in addition to disastrous economic distortions. The U.S. government, appropriately, approaches these efforts as a whole-of-government effort, but the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency in particular seem to be in the lead, though in close cooperation with other law enforcement and security agencies, and of course agencies in the State Department.