Traditionally built kiosks where women sell miraa, also known as khat, sourced from Meru County welcome visitors to Mandera town. But underneath the water-soaked sacks of miraa are drugs which are secretly sold to trusted customers.
Recovering drug addict Abdulkadir Khalif Musa, 22, reveals the secret of the manyatta miraa kiosks.
“I started doing drugs after joining secondary school in 2006. Due to peer pressure, I found myself chewing miraa,” he says.
Mr Musa (whose photograph is at the top of this article), says he chewed miraa throughout high school.
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He scored a C-plain in Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination in 2009 and joined Thika Institute of Business Studies in 2013 after teaching in several local schools as an untrained teacher.
“My life changed while at the college where my friends from Eastleigh in Nairobi introduced me to cough syrup with codeine,” he recalls.
Sh600 a bottle
His friends told him that codeine is a stimulant that would keep him awake. He blindly accepted their explanation because he did not want to disappoint his friends.
Meetings by the miraa and Codeine gobbling group were referred to as parliamentary sittings by the addicts to hide their mission from the public. Mr Musa wasted the whole of 2014 spending every coin he received from his parents on cough syrup with codeine.
“I bought enough bottles of the syrup in Eastleigh over the weekend to take me through the week while studying in Thika,” he says.
He says pharmacies in Eastleigh streets sold them codeine at Sh600 a bottle. The syrup, according to Mr Musa, is often mixed with soda to disguise it.
He says his family rejected him due to his drug addiction.
“I dropped out of college midway and returned to Mandera where I contemplated committing suicide on several occasions,” he says.
An investigation by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board of selected pharmacies in Eastleigh that sell large amounts of the syrup and Cozepam tablets show poor documentation or failure to avail sales records for scrutiny.
Cozepam which is used to treat anxiety and alcohol withdrawal is also widely abused. The drug’s street name is kabarai.