Traffickers' drugs haven in Kenya

By bottlekop · May 10, 2006 ·
  1. bottlekop
    Tuesday, 9 May 2006, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK

    Traffickers' drugs haven in Kenya
    By Karen Allen
    BBC News, Mombasa

    The Kenyan sea port of Mombasa, one of East Africa's
    busiest, is now seen as a key staging post in the
    international drugs trail.

    Overlooking the coast, shaded by a tree, I met Abbas
    injecting himself with heroin.
    Once a bus conductor with a couple of kids, he has been
    hooked on the drug for the past six years.
    Dealers target addicts like him, but the real money is
    being made shifting drugs overseas. Abbas explains how it
    "They go to Karachi, Pakistan. They take it and bring it to
    Kenya," he says.
    "Then they take it from Kenya to Kampala [in Uganda]; they
    take it to other countries."
    The fact that Kenya is grappling with two simultaneous
    challenges - a growing indigenous drug problem and high
    levels of corruption - make it a convenient transit and
    storage point for international drug cartels.
    No convictions
    According to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime,
    heroin seizures have doubled in Kenya in the past five
    Murad Saad works with addicts and says the police turn a
    blind eye to dealing on the street so why should it be any
    different for drugs just passing through?
    "They know who these people are, yet we don't seem to see
    any changes. Even if they do make an arrest, within a day
    the person is already out because he's posted bail and if
    he ever gets to go to court, he also gets out," he says.
    "We've not seen any tangible convictions or anything really
    tangible being done. "
    The problem started back in the 1980s with heroin being
    brought onto Kenya's shores.
    Now, the narcotics gangs have used the same tricks to
    traffic cocaine.
    December 2004 saw the biggest ever seizure of the drug -
    1.1 metric tons, equivalent to $90m - a little further up
    the coast, in Malindi.
    But the very size of it clearly showed that it was not
    destined for Kenya, but for other, more lucrative, markets

    The drug was destroyed in a very public display back in
    Since then, there have been a number of drug seizures,
    including $600,000 worth of cocaine, detected at Nairobi's
    main airport recently.
    So, do senior police officers accept that Kenya is now an
    established transit point for drugs, fuelled by corruption?
    "We cannot be blind to the fact that we have a very poor
    record. Law enforcement is very thin on the ground," says
    Gideon Kibunja, spokesman for Kenya Police.
    "At the same time, it is admittable, although it's
    regrettable, that there is quite a bit of corruption in the
    country and efforts to try and stamp it out are going on."
    It is something that worries Titus Naikuni, chief executive
    of Kenya Airways.

    His airline crews have been amongst those used as drug
    Five of his staff have been arrested over the past year,
    trying to bring narcotics into Europe.
    With extra security measures now in place, he says his
    employees are aware that international drug cartels are now
    targeting them.
    "I am seeing the realisation by staff that it is dangerous
    to get involved with drug trafficking," Mr Naikuni says.
    "Unfortunately, there are a few who are already hooked into
    it and maybe they might not be able to get out of it, but
    we are tracking them."
    Poverty, corruption and geography all conspire to make
    Kenya an attractive transit and storage point for drugs,
    but so too does a lack of awareness about the home-grown
    drugs problem.
    'National disaster'
    Historically, drugs intended for overseas have spilled onto
    the local market, fuelling demand.
    Dennis Wachira Heineman, who runs an addiction clinic, says
    there is still naivety about drug use in Kenya -
    particularly worrying when injecting drug use is on the
    He blames the authorities for being slow to grasp the
    problem and wants to view to the situation as a national
    "That means creating awareness to the public, tightening up
    the court system in terms of one recognising who is an
    addict, who's a dealer; giving stiff sentences to the
    dealers and helping to treat the people who are addicts,"
    he says.
    Although compared to richer countries, drug use in Kenya is
    relatively low, less than 0.5% of the population, there is
    a sense that with more narcotics seeping in, and a
    continued climate of corruption, that could rise.

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