As the world calls for reform in drug laws, Sierra Leone should make use of this window of opportunity to harmonise her drug policies in line with the West Africa Drug Commission evidence-based recommendations.

The current universal clarion call for global reform of drug laws is an excellent opportunity for our country to harmonise her drug policies in line with the West Africa Drug Commission evidence-based recommendations. Drug abuse has a long history in Sierra Leone. However, it was heightened during the eleven years brutal rebel war, during which both sides of the conflict excessively used drugs especially on the teenagers and child soldiers. Little wonder the barbaric behaviour can never be understood by human minds.

Sadly, at the end of the war, no attention was paid to the aspect of drug addiction; the ex-combatants went back to their various communities, with the acquired dangerous new habit of drug abuse.  Many became drug dependent to forget the horrors of the war. (...)

The issue of drug abuse is also compounded by campaigners. In West Africa, we have demonised drug users and call for society to have nothing to do with them. We call for their marginalisation, rejection and ostracise them, making them carry the entire social filth and treat them like lepers or deadly contagious virus/disease. Campaigners continually call for drug users to be harassed by law enforcement agencies; we call for tougher laws, with scant regard paid to the human rights of drug abusers, who are stigmatised.  We woefully fail to show the human face to their plight. Our “holier than thou attitude” only place heavy burden on the criminal justice sector as many languish in overcrowded prisons/correctional centres where many have lost their lives.

Today the UN and many international organisations like the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD), West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF) are all calling for reform in drug laws/policies, with focus on the human rights of drug users, and to treat drug use as a public health issue with socio-economic causes and consequences, rather than as a criminal justice matter.

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Thumbnail: Flickr Annabelle Symington