Planned law on narcotics trade to give drug dealers food for thought


Cocaine worth over Sh500 million displayed in Nairobi on November 6, 2019. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Drug abuse in Kenya remains a huge menace and is a major challenge with negative impacts on social, economic, governance and criminal justice sector.
  • In 2004, 1000 kilogrammes of cocaine were seized in the country making it one of the biggest drug hauls in Africa

Kenya is among top ranked countries of origin, departure and transit of trafficking of narcotic and psychotropic drugs.

This is despite Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (Control) act No. 4 of 1994, which provides the framework for combating abuse of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances in Kenya being in place.

The Act provides parameters on control, possession, transportation, trafficking and use of narcotic drugs and other substances.

Drug abuse in Kenya remains a huge menace and is a major challenge with negative impacts on social, economic, governance and criminal justice sector. In 2004, 1000 kilogrammes of cocaine were seized in the country making it one of the biggest drug hauls in Africa.

According to the Word Drug Report 2018, Kenya was one of the main countries that heroine was trafficked along the southern route to Western and Central Europe during that period.

In 2014, President Uhuru Kenyatta oversaw detonation of the drugs yacht Baby Iris, which was intercepted with narcotics into Kenya worth Sh22 million.

National values

The President in his 2015 Report on measures taken and progress achieved in the realisation of national values and principles of governance cited drug trafficking and psychotropic substance abuse as one of emerging security challenges.

The national survey on alcohol and drug abuse among secondary school students in Kenya (2016) by the National Authority for campaign against Alcohol and Drugs (Nacada) revealed that although heroine, mandrax, rohypnol and cocaine are illegal, they are nonetheless available to school-going children with cocaine being the most abused.

 According to the Institute of Security Studies, criminal groups and gangs work hand in hand with drug traffickers to keep the trade alive. The sentencing of Baktash Akasha who built a big drug trafficking operations in East Africa for 25 years disrupted the top-tier of the drug trade.

However lower criminal activities around drug trafficking still remain active. In 2019, there were increasing gang attacks at the Coast of Kenya, which the National Police Service attributed to links with the drug cartels. These increasing criminal attacks have had an adverse impact on the tourism sector and somewhat dent Kenya’s image in terms of safety and security.

The current drugs law has gaps and challenges which make efforts in combating abuse difficult. They include lenient penalties as traffickers are able to quickly and easily pay the fines imposed on them.

It does not have specific provisions to punish persons conspiring in Kenya or outside the country to commit offences related to drug trafficking.

Similarly the current law does not make provisions for securing crucial evidence through interception of communications amongst drug traffickers and conspirators.

Criminal justice system

Fortunately the fight against narcotic drugs and psychotropic substance abuse is not lost as there has been a growing recognition by various actors to address these gaps and challenges under the law.

To curb the menace that is narcotic drug and psychotropic substance abuse in Kenya, The National Committee on Criminal Justice under the auspices of the Judiciary of Kenya has recommended the amendment of the Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substance (Control) Act No. 4 of 1994 to enable effective enforcement of the law and to streamline criminal justice system.

The Bill is timely as it responds to governance, social, economic, and criminal justice sector issues. It recommends the following;

Harsher penalties on offences relating to the possession and trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances; it has defined precursors and chemical substances that could be used in the manufacture of narcotics.

Effective prosecution

Severe fines will be meted to persons who manufacture, possess, or transport precursor chemicals for unlawful production of a narcotic drug; it prescribes offences for law enforcement officers who aid or collude with persons suspected of committing offences under the law; introduces the offence of conspiring with persons inside or outside Kenya to committing offences related to manufacturing, possessing, and trafficking in or outside Kenya.

The Bill introduces the offence of collecting, generating, or transmitting for use in committing offences under the law as well as seeks to enhance effective prosecution.

The Bill provides for the interception of communication and production of that communication in court as evidence and makes it obligatory to disclose information that may aid in the prevention, commission of offence arising under the Act and aid in arresting or prosecuting persons that have committed offences under the Act.

Nacada has been in the forefront in fighting this menace and has used substantial resources towards rehabilitation of persons abusing drugs and alcohol. Parliament should therefore work towards enhancement of narcotics laws to ensure the citizens are protected.


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