Thursday, December 30, 2010

Drugs: Youths hold pro-Punjani demo

Hundreds of Kisumu youth demonstrate against reports linking Mombasa businessman Ali Punjani to drug trafficking December 23, 2010. They challenged US ambassador Michael Ranneberger to publicly reveal the dossier and evidence against Mr Punjani. TOM OTIENO

Hundreds of Kisumu youth demonstrate against reports linking Mombasa businessman Ali Punjani to drug trafficking December 23, 2010. They challenged US ambassador Michael Ranneberger to publicly reveal the dossier and evidence against Mr Punjani. TOM OTIENO 

By PAUL OGEMBA

Hundreds of Kisumu youth took to the streets to protest the alleged involvement of Mombasa businessman Ali Punjani in drug trafficking Thursday.

Led by Kisumu Youth Forum secretary general Joshua Omondi, they described Mr Punjani as a successful businessman both in Kenya and internationally, exonerating him from the illicit drug trade.

Mr Omondi said the Forum has benefitted a lot from Mr Punjani’s goodwill, adding that they are willing to give evidence to defend the businessman against the drug allegations.

According to Mr Omondi, the youths were surprised at the inclusion of Mr Punjani’s name in the list, saying they suspect a witch hunt and deliberate attempt to curtail his support to the youth across the country.

The youths described Punjani as a generous businessman who donates to the youth countrywide, saying he has done a lot to promote youth enterprises and groups in Kisumu.

“Ali Punjani does not support drug abuse and has been in the forefront warning the youth against drug abuse whenever he meets us in Kisumu. He has our interest at heart, always ready to listen to us,” said Kevin Otieno, a member.

They accused US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger of hiding behind diplomatic immunity to spread propaganda and rumours against Mr Punjani, calling on the US government to recall the envoy for interfering in the country’s affairs.

They challenged the ambassador to publicly reveal the dossier and any evidence against Mr Punjani instead of relying on hearsay to smear the businessman’s name.

The youths also vented their anger on Parliament, questioning why they debated his alleged involvement in drug trafficking in the House where the businessman could not defend himself.

Internal Security minister Prof George Saitoti last week named Mr Punjani alongside four MPs as being investigated in the ongoing drugs probe.

He linked Harun Mwau (Kilome), William Kabogo (Juja), Gidion Mbuvi (Makadara) and Ali Hassan Joho (Kisauni) to the illicit trade.

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