Why Mombasa has banned muguka


Muguka traders display their wares in Nakuru City

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The abuse of muguka and other illicit substances has been blamed for the alarming cases of admissions at mental health centres and rehabilitation facilities in Mombasa.

This, experts have said, led to Friday’s blanket ban on the substance in Mombasa County.

According to the executive director of Reachout Centre Trust, Taib Basheeib, data at the facility shows a stark reality of how substance abuse is affecting the population in the county.

The organisation, located in Mombasa’s Old Town, provides preventive and treatment services to victims battling substance disorders.

“It is shocking that the data we have shows the numbers of those we have enrolled in rehabilitation centres. The numbers of those using Muguka for example have increased to 1,500 from 1,000, data recorded from Jan-May 2024, out of these cases, we have referred at least 100 patients to Port Reitz mental facility for admission,” he said.

In terms of the age bracket, the centre has recorded a huge number of youths consuming the stimulant, the bigger percentage lying between the ages of between 15 to 25 years old.

They are mostly school dropouts or jobless and are struggling with health conditions such as Insomnia and ulcers in the mouth due to daily chewing.

Most of them are agitated, and some even turn violent, hence leading to the rise in the use of antidepressants to suppress their addiction and control their sleeping patterns.

Sustaining muguka use

“The cost of sustaining muguka use is untenable for most of them and we have cases of youngsters between 10-15 years coming to us in need of help. Miraa is expensive and therefore so many people are turning to muguka because it’s readily available,” he added.

In some cases, Taib says they have encountered scenarios where victims suffer dual diagnosis in health centres.

This means that some of them have mental health conditions and, at the same time, suffer from addictions, hence stressing the available health infrastructures as well as creating a financial burden to families.

At the Mombasa Women Empowerment Network and Mental Rescue Centre, 80 per cent of the men admitted to the facility have addictions related to muguka.

The facility provides individuals with mental health services, support and care.

The chairperson of the organisation, Amina Abdallah, lauded actions the county government of Mombasa is undertaking, calling for proper sensitisation about the stimulant.

“Today 80 per cent of our patients in Miritini are Muguka addicts. The stimulant is now a concern and we will be going to different sub-counties to talk to the youth and inform them about the dangers of Muguka,” said Amina.

Following the Executive Order issued by Mombasa County Governor Abdulswammad Sheriff Nassir Thursday, the inspectorate department has started surveillance in Likoni, Miritini and even Shanzu to block entry of the stimulant to Mombasa.

Nassir banned entry, transportation, distribution, sale and use of muguka and all its products within the county.

In Executive Order No.1 of 2024, Governor Nassir stated that all outlets, whether retail or wholesale selling or distributing the stimulant, be closed immediately.

Control drugs and substance abuse

"Pursuant to section 13 of the Fourth Schedule at part 2, it is the responsibility of the county governments to exercise to control drugs and substance abuse," it added.

According to Nassir, the county governments also have powers to regulate trade licensing and therefore, he is within his constitutional mandate. He says he has considered the greater good of the public through public participation forums.

The county leadership also says it has consulted with various government agencies, such as the National Authority for the Campaign against Drug Abuse (Nacada), before arriving at the decision.

"Scientific evidence has unequivocally established that Muguka consumption causes mental health disease and disability, leading to devastating health, socio-economic and environmental consequences, placing a burden on minors, families and county health infrastructure," he said.

The ban comes after various attempts by both Embu and Meru leaders to persuade the governor on how to regulate and allow the business to continue.

The fight against muguka has in recent weeks sparked an uproar among the traders who argue that the stimulant has been a livelihood to many families, but the county boss insists that the move is for the public good and not targeting any community or businesses.

The executive order is now in action after the governor directed for enforcement of the same with immediate effect.