Sending top drug trafficking suspects to US the right move

Tuesday February 7 2017

Baktash Akasha Abdalla

Baktash Akasha Abdalla at the Mombasa Law Courts during the hearing of his extradition case on December 1, 2016. He was extradited to the US to answer drug-trafficking charges. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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I don’t usually praise the government for doing what it is supposed to do.

That’s why I never join the mindless hordes primed to break out into choreographed ululations over such mundane things as the opening of a footbridge or a decision by a motor firm to resume local car assembly.

There are times, however, when the government does something positive and so out of character that it cannot go unnoticed.

A recent one was the decision to send the kingpins of the Akasha family narcotics empire to face trial in the United States.

God knows that the Akashas have reigned roughshod over the criminal justice system in Kenya long enough.

Starting with family patriarch Ibrahim Akasha, who was mercifully gunned down by rival gangsters on an Amsterdam street in 2000, and onto his surviving heirs — sons Baktash and Ibrahim — the drug-dealing family has seemingly owned lock, stock and barrel the security, administrative and judicial arms, as well as the corrupt political edifice.

I could only say good riddance as the two, with their foreign accomplices, Vijay Goswami and Gulam Hussein, were picked up by the police and swiftly spirited away to the US.

The government may have short-circuited the legal system because the quartet was in court challenging extradition following the American arrest warrants, but I really don’t care.

This is one of those instances where the wider interests of civilised society must take precedence over the niceties of a corrupt and incompetent criminal justice system.

I’m even willing to overlook the hypocrisy and double standards as evidenced by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2016 vow: “I will not allow any other Kenyan to be tried in a foreign court."

JUSTICE MECHANISMS
He was speaking in the wake of the collapse of the International Criminal Court case against him, Deputy President William Ruto, and four others on charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2007-2008 post-election carnage.

The epic “personal challenge”, as he aptly described it, inspired the President to become an ardent advocate of home-grown justice mechanisms.

Kenya’s foreign policy was re-directed to canvassing for en-masse African withdrawal from the ICC so that despots and dictators who murdered and brutalised their own people would be shielded from international justice.

Well, the President, to his credit, has had to accept the stark reality that the Kenyan justice system does not work.

Kudos, Mr President, for that brave decision to send the miscreants to face justice elsewhere.

We can only hope that the same resolve will be displayed in the fight against terrorism, poaching, arms smuggling, banditry and cattle rustling, and other crimes.

But we must also hope that these vows to intensify the war against transnational and organised crime do not turn out to be mere lip service and political posturing as evidenced with the stillborn campaign against corruption.

The Akashas and their ilk thrived only because they enjoyed political patronage, and corrupted the law and order organs.

In Mombasa, it has been an open secret for many years that key figures in the police; administration; Immigration, Customs and border control; and courts have been on the payroll of the Akashas and other criminal cartels.

DON'T POLITICISE WAR
The war against narcotics will get nowhere unless those networks are destroyed, starting with the arrest of all the figures in that evil food chain from the top security and administration chiefs downwards.

And while at it, it does not help to politicise war.

I watched aghast last week as the Jubilee propaganda mill circulated fake versions of the US indictment, inserting references to a “top Mombasa politician and his businessman brother” also allegedly wanted in the US.

Governor Ali Hassan Joho may have irked President Kenyatta with his juvenile tirades, but if wanted on drug smuggling or other crimes, he should be arrested and charged rather than be subjected to political propaganda.

In the meantime, the President, and Opposition leader Raila Odinga must walk the talk by removing from their political entourages all those notorious fellows suspected of wallowing in dirty drugs money.

email: [email protected] Twitter: @MachariaGaitho