Meru leaders have joined calls for President Uhuru Kenyatta to engage UK Prime Minister Theresa May on the miraa (khat) ban in her country.
This comes as Nyambene Miraa Traders Association (Nyamita) members plan to hold peaceful demonstrations in Nairobi to push for the reopening of the UK market.
In a letter addressed to the Nairobi County Police Commander, the miraa traders intend to picket along Uhuru Highway and Freedom Corner as Ms May meets President Kenyatta.
“Our purpose is to have miraa trade with the United Kingdom discussed during the bilateral talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and President Kenyatta. Specifically, we wish the PM to tell our government the requirements and procedures for miraa importers in UK…” reads part of the letter signed by Nyamita acting chairman Kimathi Munjuri.
Meru legislators, including Igembe Central MP Kubai Iringo, Dr John Mutunga (Tigania West) and Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri), have called on the UK premier to reconsider the ban.
Mr Joseph Muturia, who was a member of the Miraa taskforce, said the return of the UK market was part of their recommendations.
“President Kenyatta should take advantage of Ms May’s visit to call for the reopening of the London miraa market. Since miraa is now a legal crop, the Prime Minister should reconsider her earlier decision to ban it,” Mr Muturia said.
Nyamita wants Ms May to commit to review the ban, arguing that the former Home Office minister relied on ‘cooked surveys and research’ to push for the ban.
Mr Munjuri said they resorted to picketing after the government failed to respond to a letter addressed to Trade Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya on the matter.
In the latter, Nyamita termed Ms May’s visit as timely and hoped it will help resolve the issues that led to the miraa ban in the UK in 2014.
Ms May spearheaded the miraa ban when she was the Home Office minister when the herb was classified a Class C drug.
The ban, that took effect in June 2014, was meant to “protect communities from health and social harms associated with khat and ensure that UK does not become a hub for international khat smuggling”.