Coast clerics back President Ruto's war on drugs

President William ruto with coast leaders

President William Ruto (centre) with Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen (second right) and Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro among other leaders during the Commissioning of the Mtwapa (Kwa Kadzengo) road in Kilifi County on November 19, 2022.
 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Coast Muslim clerics have supported President William Ruto plans to crack down on drug barons and eradicate illicit brews.

The President last week declared war on drug dealers and cartels, assuring the public that his administration will deal with the drug problem in the coastal region.

He warned drug barons to leave Kenya before the law gets to them.

While on visit to Kilifi County, he ordered the government to use all available resources to tackle drug trafficking.

“I have given out an order that all those engaging in the illegal drug businesses move out of this country. They should go and look for another place to do so,” President Ruto said.

“Our children and women are struggling because of the availability of these illegal drugs. I have urged the … security apparatus and institutions to deal with the problem once and for all.”

The President called for the closure of all loopholes and routes suspected to be used by drug barons to sneak illegal substances into Kenya.

“The warning is extended also to those selling illicit brew. Those illegal alcoholic drinks are posing health risks to the citizens of this country some of whom have ended up partially blind after taking them. Others have died,” he said.

His sentiments were backed by Mombasa Muslim clerics, who said the drug problem was serious on the Coast.

“The other day, we saw school-going children arrested while in possession of bhang. Some are students and yet part of criminal gangs such as Wakali Kwanza,” said Sheikh Muhdhar Khitamy, the chairperson of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims.

‘vaping’ devices

Sheikh Khitamy noted that students now use electronic ‘vaping’ devices that simulate tobacco smoking.

“They walk around with them, commonly referring to them as hashish. With the new technique, it is hard for people to know they are engaging in illegal drug habits,” he said.

Sheikh Mohamed Khalifa, the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) organising secretary, called for collaborations between institutions to end the drug problem.

“We have seen people who were given the power to prevent the selling of illegal drugs ending up becoming businesspersons,” said Sheikh Khalifa.

For ages, the coastal region has been known as a centre for drug trafficking.

“The drug traffickers have developed a trend where they avoid border entries and use what is known as panya routes. It is so easy for them to sneak illegal goods and drugs into the country,” Ms Farida Rashid, a director at the anti-drug abuse agency Nacada, told the Nation.

Panya routes are secret or undesignated paths used by smugglers.

It is claimed that bhang sold in the Coast region comes from Kisumu County. It is also smuggled in from Ethiopia. Smuggled brown sugar comes from India and Colombia.

A United Nations agency says heroin is often transported to East Africa on dhows sailing from the coast of Iran and Pakistan.

The East Africa office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) notes that there is growing trafficking of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants into and through eastern Africa.

The international airports in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are key entry points for illicit drugs, primarily due to frequent commercial flights from Asia and the Middle East, the UNODC says.

The seaports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa are also entry points favoured by drug traffickers.

In Mombasa County, Mtwapa, Shanzu, Kisauni, Nyali and Old Town are noted to be drug hotspots.


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