As Tanzania anti-drugs force unit arrested Kenya’s drug baron, this week, after raiding her hideout at Mbezi plush suburb in Dar es Salaam, more details about her tricks that she has used to escape global law enforcers are emerging.
To survive as drug dealer for 15 years, Mama Leila apart from being connected to the top government officials in Kenya, also managed to build an image of a charitable lady who used part of her ill-acquired fortunes to help the poor in Nairobi.
The woman Nyakiniywa Naima Mohamed alias Mama Leila was found with six different passports bearing different names, including a Tanzanian passport, which she has used for 14 years to move smoothly across the globe in her drug trafficking deals.
In her Tanzanian passport she was known as Mwanaidi Ramadhani Mfundo, a resident of Dar es Salaam, Mbezi beach, a move which shows that despite the high-tech system installed by the immigration department few years ago to detect passports frauds, things are still the same to those who have deep pockets.
For many years Dar es Salaam has been her safe heaven whenever she sensed that the Kenyan law enforcers were hunting her. In Dar es Salaam’s Mbezi suburb, she was known as a very successful businesswoman who travels frequently to China and Dubai. Little was known about her involvement in drug trafficking business.
But, contrary to her secret drug deals, in her home in Nairobi’s Majengo suburb, she is known for her kindness and a friend of the poor, who was ready to spend her fortune to help the needy.
That’s why When US President Barack Obama named Nyakiniywa Naima Mohamed alias Mama Leila as a drug kingpin, many in her home suburb in Nairobi, were shocked.
In Majengo slums and adjacent estates that lie less than 3km from Nairobi Central Business District, Nyakiniywa is known for her generosity, not drug trafficking.
Ironically, none of the residents know her as Mama Leila, Nyakiniywa or Naima. She is known as Kanyanya, derived from her kindness and generosity.
From school fees to food donations to paying cash bails to secure the freedom of people arrested for petty offences, she was ready to assist people in her community.
Kanyanya has been living a simple but secretive life and no one suspected her of being a drug kingpin.
"It is shocking to us that Kanyanya can be mentioned by Obama. If it is indeed true she must be very big. But she was our mother, grandmother and sister," said a man aged about 30.
In the stretch spanning from Pumwani, Majengo slums, Kariokor, Kaloleni, Biafra, Bahati and a section of Eastleigh, Kanyanya is revered and well-known, mostly among the youth and women.
It is hard to find anyone talking negatively about her. To many locals, Kanyanya was a saviour of sorts. And talking negatively about her may earn you a beating on the spot.
"We heard about it from the media. She is a good woman here and I think you want to put me in problems," said another youth, who claimed to have known Kanyanya for long.
Typically, Majengo slums is associated with prostitution and crime rate is high. Efforts to trace Kanyanya’s background in the area proved tricky, as most locals we approached steered clear of the topic.
Those who talked to us said whenever Kanyanya was around, no one stayed hungry. And even when she was away, those close to her would still attend to the needs of the people.
"Kanyanya has been very generous to everyone who knew her and no one can deny that," said a woman, who claimed there is a rumour no one should discuss the matter.
Some of those who talked to us confirmed they had suspected Kanyanya was involved in the drugs business, but it was difficult to prove. However, some of her relatives are serving sentences outside the country for drug trafficking.
In Majengo, some youths confess having been hired to transport small sachets of drugs, but they have never dealt with Kanyanya.
Born in September 2, 1962, Kanyanya is among drug lords whose assets and accounts US President Barack Obama is seeking to seize.
Her relatives in Majengo refused to talk to the media.
She was born, brought up and attended school in the slums before moving into a nearby apartment with her family and later to Biafra and Bahati areas.
She then moved to Kileleshwa suburbs and Ngong in early 2000 where she owns property.
In Kileleshwa, reports say the house she stayed in belongs to one of the MPs who have been mentioned in the illicit drug business.
Detectives who had been pursuing her believe it is her association with the MP and the house that attracted the attention of the American sleuths.
Apart from Kileleshwa, she owns a house in Westlands and Mombasa where some of her family members stay. She owns a number of properties in Mombasa as well.
Kanyanya is a sister-in-law to a former Nairobi MP. The former MP is married to Kanyanya’a twin-sister. The former legislator refused to discuss the issue when reached.
Detectives in the city who seemed to have been caught unawares by the Obama announcement believe Kanyanya may have used her twin-sister’s documents to travel in and out of the country.
She has Kenyan and Tanzanian passports. When Tanzanian police burst into her house in Dar es Salaam’s Mbezi suburbs beach, she perhaps did not know she was on a list of international drug kingpins.
However, what shocked the Tanzanian police who equally did not know her well, were the number of calls they were getting from Nairobi asking for her release.
Some of the officers say the calls came from big offices in Nairobi, which made them reluctant to release her. Reports show Kanyanya was well respected in Mbezi because of her generosity.
"Locals say they knew her as a Digo and a Tanzanian. She contributed to all types of harambees here and helped many locals. But she could go missing for long before coming back," said one officer in Dar es Salaam.
Kanyanya, married to a former city councillor, has a wide businesses empire, ranging from cyber-cafes, salons, motor-vehicle spare parts shops, and rental houses.
She is a mother of five and alleged to be doing business with the Government and especially the Ministry of Local Government and City Hall where she has several tenders.
Surprisingly, she was one time arrested with drugs in Nairobi. A source gave us an Occurrence Book number 11/26/1996 of Kilimani Police Station, saying she was arrested and mysteriously released over drug trafficking following intervention "from above".
"That is the time we can say she was linked to drugs but then there was interference from above that led to her release," said a policeman who has since moved from the station.
Senior officers at the station refused to confirm the details referring us to police headquarters.
Head of Anti-Narcotics Unit Sebastian Ndaru said they had arrested at least three suspects in 2009 who named her as the owner of the drugs they had.
"A number of suspects had mentioned her name but we had not found her with the drugs. We have checked all our records and found no case on her," said Ndaru.
He said they were working with Tanzanian authorities on investigations.
Obama used the US Kingpin Act to request for the freezing of the assets of drug kingpins. The US Act of 1999 freezes the assets in the US of international drug traffickers. It denies drug lords access to US financial and commercial systems.
Also on the list were notorious Mexican drug trafficker Torres Manuel aka Torres Felix or Manuel Felix De Jesus or El Ondeado and countryman Macho Prieto aka Araujo Inzunza, Gonzalo and Kyrgzstan national Kolbayev, Kamchybek Asanbekovich aka Kolbaev.
Global drug trafficking trend
Drug trafficking is a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. At current levels, world heroin consumption (340 tons) and seizures represent an annual flow of 430-450 tons of heroin into the global heroin market.
Of that total, opium from Myanmar and the Lao People's Democratic Republic yields some 50 tons, while the rest, some 380 tons of heroin and morphine, is produced exclusively from Afghan opium. While approximately 5 tons are consumed and seized in Afghanistan, the remaining bulk of 375 tons is trafficked worldwide via routes flowing into and through the countries neighbouring Afghanistan.
The Balkan and northern routes are the main heroin trafficking corridors linking Afghanistan to the huge markets of the Russian Federation and Western Europe. The Balkan route traverses the Islamic Republic of Iran (often via Pakistan), Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria across South-East Europe to the Western European market, with an annual market value of some $20 billion. The northern route runs mainly through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (or Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan) to Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. The size of that market is estimated to total $13 billion per year.
Global heroin flows from Asian points of origin
In 2008, global heroin seizures reached a record level of 73.7 metric tons. Most of the heroin was seized in the Near and Middle East and South-West Asia (39 per cent of the global total), South-East Europe (24 per cent) and Western and Central Europe (10 per cent).
The global increase in heroin seizures over the period 2006-2008 was driven mainly by continued burgeoning seizures in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey. In 2008, those two countries accounted for more than half of global heroin seizures and registered, for the third consecutive year, the highest and second highest seizures worldwide, respectively.
In 2007 and 2008, cocaine was used by some 16 to 17 million people worldwide, similar to the number of global opiate users. North America accounted for more than 40 per cent of global cocaine consumption (the total was estimated at around 470 tons), while the 27 European Union and four European Free Trade Association countries accounted for more than a quarter of total consumption. These two regions account for more than 80 per cent of the total value of the global cocaine market, which was estimated at $88 billion in 2008.
By Staff writer
12th June 2011