The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The edges of Arabia


A giant baobab tree in the Sahel from Flickr user Osvaldo Zoom

We don't often cover issues from the Sahel here — that strip of land on the edge of Arabo-Berber North Africa — so here are a few links to some interesting links.

The Majlis takes a look at a recent New Yorker piece on Somalia, which if you want to follow seriously, you should read the blog Africa Comments.

Sahara new centre for drugs trading, UN warns:

The Sahara desert has become a new centre for trading cocaine from West Africa for heroin from East Africa, the UN's drugs chief said yesterday.

Antonio Maria Costa said drugs money was being used to fund terrorists and anti-government forces and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime had "acquired evidence" of new trafficking routes across Chad, Niger and Mali.

He told the UN security council that the trade of West African cocaine for East African heroin was making drugs a new kind of currency in the region.

"Terrorists and anti-government forces in the Sahel extract resources from the drug trade to fund their operations, purchase equipment and pay foot soldiers," he said.

✩ Of course there is the old question of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and how it may benefit from the drug trade and other forms of organized crime. Some see behind it the machinations of the Algerian regime, a kind of exporting/subverting of the remnants of armed Islamic groups from the civil war to carry out black ops, project strategic importance, or simply make money.

✩ Meanwhile, Guinea's leader is recovering in Morocco following an assassination attempt. The country is still highly unstable. It is one of the main routes for drug trafficking across Western Africa, a route that ends in Morocco. Which is hosting several politicians believed to be involved in that trade, and has a poor record of officials being complicit in aiding or covering up the drug trade.