Rights agency calls for sober talk in war on drugs

Saturday February 11 2017

drug trafficking

Fahim Ali, one of the people undergoing rehabilitation at Kisauni Level Four Hospital, talks to a Nation reporter on February 8, 2017. He wants the government to deal with drug trafficking. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It is business as usual at drug dens in Mombasa despite the government's tough talk against traffickers and promise to eradicate the menace.

Hundreds of drug addicts are still camped in some of the notorious dens in the county, with little being done to rehabilitate them, the Saturday Nation can reveal.

A spot check at drug dens in Kisauni, Old Town, Shimanzi and near the Coast General Hospital showed that the addicts have been left to fight for themselves despite assurances by the government to intervene.

The addicts still mill around the areas, injecting themselves with drugs in broad daylight.

According to the National Authority for the Campaign against Drug Abuse (Nacada) and US anti-narcotics Agency, some 96,752 people are addicted to hard drugs, including cocaine and heroin at the Coast, 40,000 of them are students aged between 12 and 17 years.

In August last year during his tour of the Coast, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed immediate crackdown on drugs, dealers and their dens and the rehabilitation of users.

He told local politicians to work with security forces and Nacada to ensure all drug dens are eliminated in the same manner illicit brews were destroyed in Central Kenya and Nairobi.

The President gave them a two-week ultimatum to set up a drug rehabilitation centre at the National Youth Service (NYS).

But six months down the line, nothing has been done.

On Friday, when the Saturday Nation visited the camp, construction of a perimeter wall, which began immediately after the directive for the purpose of securing the camp to ward off “bad elements” was still incomplete.

“The wall is actually not a big problem because it is 90 per cent complete. We are waiting for Nacada to bring equipment and the county to send counsellors and medical personnel,” an official at the NYS camp said on condition of anonymity.

But speaking in an interview in Mombasa, a director at Nacada, Ms Farida Rashid, said the programme would kick off soon.

“Currently we have addicts who are being rehabilitated at the Coast General Hospital, but soon we will open the NYS centre and take in others as planned,” she said.

Last week, both Mr Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto reiterated their determination to arrest drug dealers.

But this degenerated into a war of words with Governor Hassan Joho, who claimed that he was being targeted.

The governor on Tuesday said the two leaders were not honest in the fight against drug lords, maintaining that the government was bent on derailing his political career in the pretext of fighting drugs in Mombasa.

He claimed that during the runup to the 2013 General Election, the same narrative was built up, with the view of discrediting him as a leader.

But even as the war of words intensified, those affected have appealed to authorities to come to their aid.

“We were told we would be rehabilitated since last year but this is empty talk. We are still suffering. It is not that we like this life but there seems to be nobody to help us,” Fahim Ali, a drug user in Frere Town, Kisauni, one of the hardest hit areas, said.

Ms Neema Said, who has been using drugs for more than 10 years, said politicising the matter had made matters worse, adding that those who were interested in being rehabilitated are back in the dens.

Yesterday, members of the civil society added their voice on the matter calling for a sober debate on fight against drug trafficking.

“We are doubtful the government will measure up to the task and eradicate the drug menace. We will wait to see if the commitment will go beyond the 2017 election,” Suba Churchill, Convener of Civil Society Reference Group, said in Mombasa.