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Friday 28 January 2011

Kenya: War on Drug Abuse Intensifies

A new Alcoholic Drinks Control Act and the naming of suspected drug barons has witnessed the shortage of drugs, leaving the addicts with no alternative but to seek rehabilitation.

By Eric Sande

NAIROBI---Kenya’s war on drugs and substance abuse - including alcohol has had significant developments.

It could be attributed to two major events in the recent past. First, the coming into effect of the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act, which is commonly referred to as the Mututho law and, secondly, the release of a dossier naming individuals suspected to be engaging in or abetting drug trafficking.

The new Alcohol Control Bill  sums up  an end to all legislation tackling the menace of illicit alcohol, second-generation brews, the blight of alcohol-fuelled road carnage, broken homes and domestic assaults, whose cause could only be laid at the footsteps of binge drinking.

This dark reality came to the fore after the consequential legislation narrowed down to a wasted generations of youths, often too drunk and rife to have a care in the world, in both urban and rural settings.

Those defying the new law are hauled to court and fined up to USD 386.1890 per person.

On hard drugs issue, the Government has since tightened the noose on drug barons, supply of cocaine and heroin has gone down at the Kenyan Coast forcing addicts to stream into hospitals in search of rehabilitation either after failing to replenish their supplies or in a new resolve to kick the habit.

"We have received reports that the reduction of heroin and cocaine in the market has made some of the addicts especially those who have refused to go for treatment to turn to bhang," reveals Sheikh Juma Ngao, a director with National Agency for the Campaign Against Drug Abuse (Nacada).

Bhang (Cannabis Sativa) mainly comes from upcountry and is transported by either private or public vehicles as general luggage to Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya after Nairobi. It is also sourced from Tanzania where it is shipped to the many fishing ports in South Coast.

Mombasa is the main distribution point to other towns in the region, says police. The business is reportedly co-ordinated by powerful cartels.

Mombasa District AP commandant Hussein Mohammed confirms that addicts have turned to bhang because it is readily available in the market.

He says cocaine and heroin have become scarce adding that addicts who were hooked on to the drugs were progressively becoming weaker.

"Those chronic addicts who don’t want to go for treatment and rehabilitation are now using a cocktail of bhang and Rohypnol, a sedative used by psychiatric patients. We have arrested several suspects who revealed that they have been sent to peddle the cocktail to addicts who can’t access heroin and cocaine," says Mohammed. He also reveals that a row has emerged between the addicts and suppliers. Bhang can also be mixed with small quantities of heroin.

Crackdowns on bhang traffickers in Kenya has passed many huddles with dealers becoming increasingly smarter at eluding police dragnets as they continue to profit from the trade.

Police estimates indicate that a large per cent of the bhang seized in the country each year originates from Tanzania and is brought through the Sirare border point.

Investigation reveals most of the bhang is grown in sugarcane farms and also interspersed with maize and other food crops in Tarime District to the North West of Tanzania before finding its way into the Kenyan market. Some Kenyan small-scale farmers and drug barons are believed to own bhang farms in Northern Tanzania.

"One can get daily supply sometimes even on credit," admits Mahammud Mohammed adding that he has been doing drugs since 1982.

Mohammed, an addict, says that he smokes eight rolls of bhang a day adding that the drug is readily available for as little as USD 0.1287 a roll.

A group of Coast Entertainers and showbiz celebrities have since stepped up the war against illicit drugs at the Kenyan Coast. The group named ‘Coast Entertainers group’ have initiated a project dubbed  Epuka Uteja Initiative  Swahili for avoid drug which will focus more on civic education.

The group comprises of event organizers, musicians, hoteliers and media a personality who have decided to team up and visit school at the Kenyan coast and use their influence to stop the vice.

The spokesman of the group Mr. Samora who is the CEO of Buzz Afrique, an event organizing company emphasized that the fight on illicit drugs at the Kenyan coast needs civic education at  grass root level to discourage the use and to clearly show the effects of drug taking.

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