The cannabis market in Madagascar is unique among Indian Ocean drugs markets in several ways. Research for this study done by the Global Initiative Against Transcontinental Crime (GI-TOC) focused on Betroka, a region in southern Madagascar which is one of the main domestic sources of cannabis.
In Betroka, cannabis trafficking is controlled by large, hierarchically governed networks that exercise a significant degree of control over the territory in which cannabis is produced. These groups are also involved in other criminal economies: many have been involved in cattle rustling and banditry, and more recently informal artisanal mining, which is a significant and growing economy in the region. Some of these groups have used military-grade weapons and play an important role in the circulation of illicit firearms in Madagascar.
Speaking to the GI-TOC in an interview, one cannabis trafficker in the region reported that his gang – reportedly numbering in the hundreds and primarily made up of young men – reached a pact with regional law enforcement: the gang surrendered arms from former cattle-rustling operations in return for impunity in its cannabis venture. ‘Hery’ (not his real name) presented himself and his group as ‘Robin Hood’ figures, using cannabis as an opportunity for a livelihood which would otherwise be unavailable to those in his region. ‘We bring together hundreds of young guys … who have never set foot in school. We think of ourselves as highwaymen. The leaders of this country forget about us. … We are not criminals like you think, we are trying to provide for our families.’
The degree of local political power wielded by traffickers, together with their ability to impose a ‘tax’ on other traffickers wishing to operate in the region and their involvement in arms flows, suggest that they are not simply entrepreneurial groups but have some characteristics of criminal governance.
Original Source: www.cannabiz-africa.com