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Kenya weak in war on drugs? No sweat, Big Brother got your back

Monday August 26 2019

narcotics trade

Coast regional police boss Yakub Rashid, at Mombasa police headquarters on August 25, 2019, parades the sachets containing heroin that were confiscated from suspected drug peddlers in Mombasa. The narcotics trade is affecting the region's economy. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KALTUM GUYO
By KALTUM GUYO
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I am not surprised to hear how deep-seated the drugs problem is, given our penchant for impunity.

Dominated by the Akashas, the true extent of the problem came out only when one of the suspects, Vijayghiri Goswami, volunteered to go down with a number of ‘big people’.

On the face of it, there appears to be everything wrong with the way the suspects were bundled out to the US despite an ongoing extradition case. Top of that is the issue of jurisdiction.

Many Kenyans wondered whether the US had any legal right to charge the suspects despite an ongoing semblance of a trial in Kenya.

This was a criminal act that had its heartbeat firmly in Kenya, albeit with other countries roped in as source and markets for the drugs.

Kenya should have been involved in the prosecution of the Akashas, but alas!

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USA'S POWER

US had to step in to save its country from being flooded with drugs coming through Kenya into their shores when the latter dragged its feet to react to a dossier tabled in Parliament some 10 years ago by then-Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, who has since died.

By claiming the Akasha case, the US was only proving its usefulness in protecting citizens of countries with weak justice systems, such as ours. That is what you would call long arm of the law in its truest sense.

Many countries in the West rely on extra-territorial jurisdiction in their legislation to assume jurisdiction of transnational crimes regardless of the citizens involved or geographical location.

The UK and the US are quite resolute about extra-territorial jurisdiction and will doggedly pursue those who commit serious crimes such as trade in illicit drugs and sexual offences.

Recently, Mexican drug baron El-Chapo was extradited to the US where he was charged with trafficking narcotics into America.

JUSTICE

Before that, a British Airways pilot was charged in the UK with sexual offences that he committed on Kenyan children.

Our disregard for the rule of law manifests in how passive we are in upholding our obligations to the international community.

The ICC case involving the Ocampo Six had to be determined at the Hague when local courts showed unwillingness to prosecute it.

This is despite Kenya being signatory to the Rome Statute that places responsibility on domestic courts to prosecute international crimes such as genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Akashas’ issue is an indictment not just on our courts, but on Kenya. It is commendable, however, to see the government making attempts to rein in drug barons by pursuing individuals mentioned by Goswami in the US.

Time will tell whether the government is, indeed, serious or just reacting to save face.

POVERTY

The other issue of importance is establishing why trade in illegal drugs thrived at the Coast and why its use spread rapidly, particularly among youth. These are not problems that could have thrived in a vacuum.

Poverty has played a part in attracting youth to illegal substances, from hard drugs to miraa (khat).

Most of the towns, such as Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu, continue to experience a decline in fortunes with reported cases of high unemployment.

The insecurity spell in the guise of flushing out terrorists has not done coastal towns any good. Instead, it has kept tourists away, denying small-scale traders income.

Hotels have lapped up the insecurity and marketed their products as all-inclusive by forcing tourists to barricade behind hotel walls.

Many small car assembling plants and textile industries have long closed. Kenya Ports Authority has, over the decades, been the highest employer.

Sadly, KPA has also experienced political interference, with locals being sidelined in employment.

JOBS

Relocation of most of the operations of Mombasa port to either Nairobi or Naivasha is bound to worsen the situation.

It is not surprising to hear truck drivers and transport companies object to SGR’s involvement in ferrying cargo from the port.

There was a large independent cargo hauling industry that had grown around Mombasa port that employed a sizeable number of locals and whose livelihood is now under threat.

Tourism earnings rose to Sh157 billion in 2018, according to the Ministry of Tourism, with coastal towns contributing the lion’s share to the revenue.

A fair amount of that tourism money should have gone into improving the welfare of coastal residents.

It is shameful that coastal towns with abundant resources are still lagging behind other towns and wallowing in poverty.

The government has shown leadership in dealing with insecurity aspects of the illegal drugs problem.

However, it also needs to address the on-going socio-economic problems affecting most of the region to improve Coast residents welfare.

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The government must find a permanent solution to the persistent strikes by healthcare workers.

These are crucial workers whose welfare should be a priority. By not valuing the welfare of doctors and nurses, the counties are proving that they care less about the people.

At Coast General Hospital, the ratio of nurse to patient is about 1 to 30, instead of 1 to 3-to-4 as per WHO guidelines.

I have witnessed how a single nurse would carry on regardless of the appalling conditions. Our medical teams deserve better.

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