In Malindi in February, last year, Deputy President William Ruto warned that the government would destroy the vessels and properties, pull down stores and shut down the businesses of drug traffickers.
In Mombasa last week, a year later, he waxed irate: “It does not matter who they are; it does not matter how much influence they think they have; it does not matter how much political clout they claim to have. We are firm in our resolve and we will deal with them firmly and conclusively”.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was also at the coast, first put drug traffickers on notice in 2013. Every year since, when visiting in August and for Christmas and New Year holidays, he threatens them with prison, seizure of property and deportation.
President and Deputy unfailingly follow the same diary and script on narco trafficking at the coast. However, there have been notable differences this February. One, their pronouncements were preceded by the extradition of four people to the United States to face drug trafficking charges.
Two, Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet was on hand to claim ownership of the investigation, arrest and extradition of the quartet. “Who told you foreigners were involved?” he asked journalists.
Three, the President, DP and IG sought to minimise the role of the US’ Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the investigation and extradition of the foursome. What remains constant is that even though they named no names, everybody purports to know who the President and Deputy had in their crosshairs.
On Washington’s role, let it be remembered that the foursome had been bailed and had since 2015 been stalling their extradition through manoeuvring in the courts. In March 2015, Reuters reported of their arrest thus:
“One evening last November, a handful of policemen in Kenya’s sweltering port city of Mombasa were handpicked to help in the final stages of a US-led drugs sting that spanned three continents.
“... The policemen were banned from using their mobile phones and the names of the men they wanted were kept from them until two hours before the raid. Secrecy was deemed vital in a region known for its corruption”.
Ditto the French news agency AFP in June: “When a crack unit of Kenyan narco cops raided a Mombasa villa in November, after an eight-month undercover US investigation, it marked a step change in Africa’s fight against drug trafficking”.
And, remember that this specialised anti-narcotics unit is supported by the DEA and was in January last year given six vehicles by the US State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Undoubtedly, Washington’s position is that Nairobi cannot fight narco traffickers. In December 2010, it emerged, thanks to WikiLeaks, that four years previously then US Ambassador William Bellamy had reported to Washington that Nairobi could not fight drug barons. Why? Because its police, prosecutors and politicians were infiltrated and compromised by them.
Little wonder an April 2013 dossier titled “The Development Response to Drug Trafficking in Africa”, pointedly indicted the Kenya government: “In Kenya, top officials from both political parties were represented in the 2008-2013 coalition government and individuals across party lines and ethnic groups collaborate in the drug trade, making the situation more stable and intractable. Those officials who actively oppose the trade are pressured to play along or are pushed out ...”
Who is the man the President, DP and Coast Regional Coordinator Nelson Marwa repeatedly attack as a drug kingpin in Mombasa but dare not name? Rewind to November of 2010. Then US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger revealed that Washington had banned four government officials and a businessman from travelling to the US because of their involvement in the narcotics trade.
Why the ambassador? Because the government was not naming them. So he let it be known the five were fingered and their names given to him by Kenyan intelligence after a local legal process. Under pressure, the Internal Security Minister, the late George Saitoti, on December 22, finally named the culprits as MPs Ali Hassan Joho, Harun Mwau, Mike Sonko, William Kabogo and businessman Ali Punjani. They all protested their innocence.
Early in 2011 police reported there was no evidence to link the quintet to narco trafficking. Then, as now, Mr Joho asked to be arrested and arraigned but to no avail. Now Americans investigated and nailed the extradited quartet, when will Boinnet arrest and arraign Mr Joho? He is the big fish President Kenyatta, DP Ruto and commissar Marwa promised, right?