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Renewed war on narcotics provides desired hope

Saturday February 11 2017

Suspects (from left) Baktash Akasha, Vijaygiri Goswami, Gulam Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha (partly hidden) with their Lawyer Cliff Ombeta at Mombasa Law Courts on January 23, 2017. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Suspects (from left) Baktash Akasha, Vijaygiri Goswami, Gulam Hussein and Ibrahim Akasha (partly hidden) with their Lawyer Cliff Ombeta at Mombasa Law Courts on January 23, 2017. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MICHAEL CHERAMBOS
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The tempo set late last week in the war against narcotics trade could not have come at a better time. In fact it has come a bit too late for some people especially at the coast.

The legality of the arrest and extradition of the Akasha brothers and their two alleged accomplices to the United States of America aside, the seeming resolve of the government to root out trading and consumption of illicit drugs in Kenya should be celebrated.

The government, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta, is finally showing some sense of commitment, the will and capacity to confront the multibillion shillings menace that has confined hundreds of young adults and children to a vegetative state for so long.

A walk in the streets of Kisauni, Bamburi and other low-income neighbourhoods of Mombasa reveals a situation of helplessness that can only be equated to a desperately lawless society. Young men and women high on drugs can go to any extent robbing and mugging to get some little money to get their daily fix. It is a state that affects not only the addicts but also pose a security risk to all the residents and visitors in the area.

Though the menace mainly directly affects the poor in society, drug business is done and benefits the rich. The networks of acquisition and distribution are intricate and sophisticated. They traverse national and continental borders and more often than not they include people in governments and high political offices. Security agencies are, most times, complicit making it very difficult for any effort to fight the business to succeed.

SUPPORT MOVES

It is for this reason that every right-thinking parent and leader should support any move, however humble, to discourage the trade. And that is why the debate about which country’s security agencies were involved in the investigation and final capture of the four suspects who have since been extradited should not occupy the psyche of the nation.

Matters of security protocol are always difficult to comprehend for many of us in the civilian world. But what is clear is that with the existence of systems like the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, there is always some sort of collaboration among security agencies of different countries in tracking down criminals, especially those whose activities go beyond borders. That American agents were involved in the investigation that led to the arrest of the Akashas and their alleged accomplices should not be seen as an indictment of the incompetence of the Kenyan policemen and women. It should instead be a positive indicator of the willingness of our security agents to share intelligence and resources with friendly countries in the fight against crime.

Inspector-General Joseph Boinnet went to great lengths trying to convince curious journalists that the arrests were done by the Kenyan police. He almost got angry driving the point home which I think was unnecessary and a waste of the inspector-general’s time. There were more important issues to address and that includes the government’s renewed resolve to create a hostile environment for peddlers of narcotics in the country.

POLICE SERVICE

Just for the record, issues of national security and the fight against crime do not start and end with the police service of any given country. As Deputy President William Ruto put it on Monday, the narcotics business is a multifaceted enterprise whose networks touch on other vices like terrorism, arms dealing and political manipulation. To fight it, many government offices must be involved. Credible sources indicate that there was deep involvement of the National Intelligence Service, the directorate of criminal investigations, the Office of the President, the Immigration Department, the Kenya Revenue Authority among others in the tracking of and eventual arrest the Akasha brothers and their alleged accomplices. That is as it should be and every Kenyan should be encouraged to play a part in the war against narcotics. Sharing information is key in arresting crime and what transpired in the Akashas incident should boost the confidence of would-be informers rather than be a source of doubt in the capacity of our security agencies.

It is also imperative to note that the extradition of the four suspects is not a surrender of our national sovereignty but a commendable step in the effort to seek and probably break the international and local network of evil. Unlike what was witnessed in the infamous Chickengate case where the Britons were charged and convicted while our compatriot accomplices are yet to get their day in court, it is hoped that all the suspects in the current case will get the same treatment and justice will be served to all.

And before pessimists start connecting the happenings at the coast with the August, 2017 General Election, maybe it will be reassuring to note that the president was very categorical that the saw the government intends to use in the fight will cut on both sides. In fact media reports coming in the wake of the arrest and extradition of the Akashas and company fingered suspected players on both sides of the political divide in the country and Kenyatta and his deputy were quick to announce there will be no sacred cows.

Only time will tell but the nation will be advised to keep the hope and provide the much-needed support to slay the dragon of narcotics.

Michael Cherambos is a social, political and economic commentator based in Nairobi.

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