Ethiopia authorities have arrested about 56 foreign nationals suspected of drug trafficking in six months.
The foreign nationals come from 15 different countries. The busts were made around the city and at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport.
“Including our operation at the airport and the city [Addis Ababa] in general, we have captured 95 kilograms and 800 grams of cannabis as well as 141 kilograms and 712 grams of cocaine,” Mengisteab Beyene, the head of the narcotics division at Federal Police Command, said.
Officials have warned the general public that drug trafficking is a serious crime that could result in a minimum sentence of 5 years. According to Ethiopian law, drug traffickers could also be fined around $3,600 (100,000 birr).
Drug trafficking has reportedly increased in the region in the past few years. A report by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said there has been a rise in the trafficking of heroin from countries like India, Pakistan, and Thailand to East Africa.
“Increased seizures of heroin with Nigerian connections bound for Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya through Ethiopia have been noted as well. Seizures and arrests statistics show that more Tanzanians and Mozambicans are becoming involved in the trafficking of heroin from Pakistan and Iran. Eastern Africa is accessible by sea to heroin and cannabis resin producer countries in South West and South East Asia through the ports in Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, and Tanzania,” the UN report reads.
The UNODC report revealed that airports in Addis Ababa and Nairobi are being used as a transit point by drug and arms dealers.
These two international airports are connected to West Africa which has increasingly become a hub for drug traffickers, according to New Business Ethiopia. Drugs especially cocaine, which is produced in Colombia and Peru, is transported to Europe and America via West African countries such as Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Mali, and Cape Verde.
“West African syndicates, with their experience in cannabis and heroin smuggling, are actively networking in Latin America, and are responsible for the emergence of cocaine trafficking and abuse in eastern Africa,” the UNODC report stated.