West African Drug Trade, War of Words in Sudan NPR Africa Correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton talks about a new drug trade in West Africa, a war of words in Darfur between the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and the Sudanese government, and two important African heritage sites failing to rank on a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World.
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West African Drug Trade, War of Words in Sudan

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West African Drug Trade, War of Words in Sudan

West African Drug Trade, War of Words in Sudan

West African Drug Trade, War of Words in Sudan

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NPR Africa Correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton talks about a new drug trade in West Africa, a war of words in Darfur between the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and the Sudanese government, and two important African heritage sites failing to rank on a new list of the Seven Wonders of the World.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is News and Notes. I'm Farai Chideya.

It's time now for our weekly Africa update. Is West Africa a regional hub for international drug trading and Darfur, a war of words between the U.S. special envoy and the Sudanese government? Plus, two important African heritage sites failed to rank among the new Seven Wonders of the World.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is the Senegalese capital - is in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. First, she has the latest on drug trafficking.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Well, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is working with West African police forces here in the region to close down what they say is huge drug smuggling networks. And that's follows recent seizures(ph) in Guinea-Bissau - that's a former Portuguese colony across the border from Senegal - from Mauritania, another neighbor to Senegal, and then right here in Senegal. And it's apparently because policing especially in Guinea-Bissau, which is the weakest link, is so poor that these Latin American, South American drug cartels are using this region as a major transit hub to especially traffic cocaine as the drug of choice, and that's on to Europe.

But I've just come back from Ghana and two British school girls - 16-year-olds - they say they were duped, but apparently, they were caught trying to board a plane from the capital Accra back to London and they each had six pounds worth of cocaine - apparently, valued at $600,000. They say that they were set up but this is what is happening.

And in Ghana, it's the ports of Takoradi and Tema that apparently being used for drug smuggling. So they want to crush this ring. And, of course, the other problem is if Africans are being used as mules to transport these drugs to Europe, there are going to be drug addicts, of course, here in the region. So African leaders are very worried.

CHIDEYA: That is a very, very serious issue. Let's turn to Darfur. What's the latest news?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, Washington special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, is just back from a trip to Darfur. Now, before he left the country he held a news conference in Khartoum, and he accused the Sudanese government, and, in fact, the Darfur rebels, of what he called cynically obstructing international efforts to end the four-year conflict. He also charged that the government is continuing to target civilians in Darfur.

(Soundbite of recorded clip)

Mr. ANDREW NATSIOS (U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan): After a halt in the bombing between the beginning of February and the end of April in 2007, the Sudanese government has resumed bombing in Darfur. This should end and the cease-fire that was agreed to sometime ago should be respected.

Rural lordism is taking place. People are at risk. The government of Sudan really needs to protect its own citizens.

Secondly, I think there's been a real change in climate in the displaced camps. People are really frustrated and angry, and many of them are telling us they don't want their political leaders to represent them anymore. I asked repeatedly who they wanted. They said they want to represent themselves in the peace talks.

But the demands that they made, very interestingly enough, were very reasonable and they're focused on restoring life in the communities, on security, on reconstruction, on compensation, which I think are all very reasonable expectations.

QUIST-ARCTON: Andrew Natsios said that both sides - the government and the rebels - are to blame for the Darfur crisis. But the Sudanese government has rejected the allegations by the U.S. special envoy. And they say that they have not resumed bombing civilian targets in Darfur.

Listen to Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations. A rather angry Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, dismiss the claims.

Ambassador ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations ): I can assure you that no bombing took place. No, it is absolutely untrue. It is (unintelligible) characteristic of Mr. Natsios. No bombing took place as announced by him. In fact, this man has become a stumbling block to business of Sudan. Divide the rule is not a policy of the government, rather it's a policy of some American circles.

They have to support the political process. They have to absorb(ph) their unilateral sanction again in the Sudan. They have to stop their campaign at the Security Council, again, in the country. They have to come with clean hands positive enough to support the political process rather than repeating and repeating this business allegation.

QUIST-ARCTON: Now, whilst we're having this war of words between Washington and Khartoum, meanwhile there are peace talks - Darfur peace talks happening in Libya. So we'll see whether this ends up with a joint United Nations and African Union force actually being deployed to Darfur to help both civilians and humanitarian agencies.

CHIDEYA: Well, let's shift gears, one somewhat lighter topic. There is the issue of the seven wonders of the world, and whether or not they remain the same. Can you fill us in on that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

QUIST-ARCTON: Can you name the Ancient Seven Wonders of the World first, Farai?

CHIDEYA: Absolutely not.

(Soundbite of laughter)

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, the one that's probably most important to Africa is the Great Pyramid of Giza because it's the - actually, it's the only one that is still standing. But my dear, of the new seven wonders of the world - and this was an initiative started by a Swiss corporation to choose the new seven wonders - not one of them is African. Can you imagine?

CHIDEYA: Oh, unfortunately I can.

QUIST-ARCTON: There's the Great Wall of China, Petra in Jordan, Christ the Redeemer - the Statue in Brazil - Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Coliseum in Rome and the Taj Mahal in India. The Great Pyramid of Giza is an honorary candidate. Ask why?

CHIDEYA: Why?

(Soundbite of laughter)

QUIST-ARCTON: I think it's because this shows that Africa really needs to forge ahead technologically. Apparently, those that won - the Great Wall of China, for example, Machu Picchu - even the governments in those country appeal to the citizens to go online because it was an online vote, and vote. And it shows it worked.

Okay, yes, they are Wonders of the World, but what about Timbuktu in Mali? Dusty and sandy it may be, but home to one of the world's first universities. And what about the Great Pyramids of Giza? But it seems that the Egyptian government and the Malian government - because this has been going on for what? seven years - didn't get their act together and didn't get their citizens online to vote.

CHIDEYA: Wow. Well, definitely at this point every online poll is highly unscientific, so we will still consider Giza, one of the great Wonders of the World.

QUIST-ARCTON: And of course, Timbuktu as another of the great wonders of the world being in West Africa, my region.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: We'll add that one back in as well. Well, great center of learning.

Ofeibea, thank you so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

CHIDEYA: NPR Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, speaking with us from Dakar, Senegal.

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